Thursday, April 21, 2005
That's Just Wrong: Destroying Crops
How do you justify mowing down acres of corn that could have been consumed by needy families? That's what one south florida farmer wants to know. He says even though a judge ruled he was squatting on the land and mowing the crop is legal, destroying decent food is just wrong.
WSVN -- George Suarez has been farming in South Miami Dade county all his life.
George Suarez: "I'm a second generation farmer."
But it's a tough life. With so much land being bought up for conservation efforts in the Everglades, finding places to plant is a problem.
That's why, when he saw the corps of engineers working on this field last fall -- he saw opportunity.
George Suarez: "They have a problem doing the survey and I came up to the guy and said hey, I'll clear the grass if you let me put a crop on."
The corps agreed and the crop was thriving.
That is until George found out South Florida Water Management actually owned the 320 acres, and they were planning to mow down his crop.
George Suarez: "I tried to make a deal with them to pay some land rent. They told me no deal."
George even went to court to stop water management from destroying the food.
But he didn't have a signed agreement so the judge ruled against him.
Then just days before the crop was to be picked, the mowers went in. The corn rotted and George stood helplessly by taking pictures.
George Suarez: "This was a perfect field."
And perfectly good corn, making George say that's just wrong.
George Suarez: "They could have donated it to human status -- anybody. Let me pull it and donate it. I would have had no problem. But this is really wasted food."
Wasted food that hungry people in South Florida really need.
George Suarez: "Especially since it's produce. It's so nutritious and so valuable to our agencies. That they love the opportunity to have fresh produce like that."
Plus organizations like the Daily Bread Food Bank would have picked the corn for free rather than see it be destroyed.
Representative from Daily Bread Food Bank: "When there is product that is going to go to waste on a farm, we are more than happy to set up a group of volunteers to go out there and glean the field."
But South Florida Water Management says it's not that easy.
South Florida Water Management Spokesperson: "We have to be very careful. We have to enforce our rules. We don't have any control over what fertilizers pesticides are being used out there."
Thats because they say they don't have the money or manpower to make sure the farmer doesn't sneak back in and pick the corn.
George Suarez: "Are we going to have to post armed guards and wires around this field? We just don't have the resources to do that."
And they argue getting legal permission to donate the food could cost taxpayers a lot of money.
George Suarez: "We've got to collect or sue him or attach assets to get the money. It's outside of the scope of our responsibility and a waste quite frankly of our tax payer resources."
But george says it's not a matter of finances, it's a matter of putting food on the table. He believes no crop should go to waste.
George Suarez: "I think we could have worked. It could have been different."
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