Why We Still Burn Sugar Cane In The Rio Grande Valley Of Texas
Attorney and Counselor at Law at Law Office of Brenda Brown Perez
Burning of the fields in the three county area along the border with Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley usually starts in October and extends through April and sometimes May. If you have grown up and live in what was known as the ‘Magic Valley’, before it became the new Ellis Island, you would not need a calendar to know it was burn time. Small particles of black feathery snow-like composite would greet you at the park, on your car, on a walk or a quick trip to the grocery store. No amount of effort was effective at avoiding it. Florida calls it ‘Black Snow.’
Mexico, Central America and South America with Brazil being one of the largest sugar producing nations in the world, also burn sugar cane. South Texas often battles the burning of all of these international fields of sugar if the wind direction is right. Brazil uses at least half of its sugar production for fuel, namely ethanol for cars. Ethanol production also helps keep the fuel import requirements down for those countries that rely on fuel for their high populations, China, India, Brazil and Thailand to name the largest. That is good for them, but what about the impact on our global environment and the extremely low value of sugar in the United States?
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Crowds Congregate To Watch
As the art of burning cane becomes an infrequent sight, those fields that are still burnt attract crowds of people, who, stuck by the sight of it stop suddenly along the roadside.
Because the fires are very uncommon, its quite common to get a pretty fair audience, Mark said.
The biggest problem we find is people pulling up, not even getting away from the fog line and then theyll just jump out of the car and because theyre too busy watching the fire, theyre not watching whats going on around them.
On the back roads its not so bad, but on the main roads its quite a hazard.
Very rarely do we ever advertise it if on a main road, because we get enough people pulling up where they shouldnt be.
If you do see a cane fire, park off the road, and watch out for people.
Be aware of your surroundings and if youre close to the fire dont get too close, because wind can change and the people who are controlling the fire have enough to deal with let alone having to worry about bystanders.
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Prescribed Burns Help The Sugarcane Industry And Reduce Smoke And Ash Problems
Benjamin L. Legendre
The ability of farmers to burn sugarcane is a significant economic factor for the states sugarcane industry. Burning of sugarcane before harvest eliminates from 30 percent to 50 percent of the leafy trash that constitutes from 20 percent to 25 percent of the total weight of the plant.For example, for a yield of 50 tons of sugarcane per acre, 10 to 15 tons of residue must be removed before milling. Controlled agricultural burning allows more efficient sugarcane harvesting in the field and improves sugar quality and recovery in the factory. The residue contributes very little to the production of sugar and has little or no economic value.The remainder of the plant consists of stalks from which the sugar is crystallized from the extracted juice in processing. Harvesting burned sugarcane results in less soil being brought to the factory, reduces fuel consumption because less material is transported to the factory and uses less water in washing the crop before milling. Reducing transport within the field lessens soil compaction. Currently, there is no profitable or effective way to deal with this large volume of residue by mechanical means either in the field or at the factory.
The policy addresses two goals:
to allow the use of fire as an accepted management practice, consistent with good science, to maintain agricultural production on agricultural land, and
Benjamin L. Legendre, Extension Sugarcane Specialist, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
Everglades Illustrated: An Industry Exposed
NASA satellite image of multiple sugarcane fires burning near Belle Glade, Florida, acquired January 5, 2021 See the plumes of smoke in the satellite image above? They mark actively burning sugarcane fields, a practice thats been used for decades at the expense of exposed residents to make harvesting cheaper. The surrounding black squares show an expansive checkerboard of recently burned sugar fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Now imagine living in that area where skies regularly fill with dark smoke that causes eyes to sting and chests to tighten almost every day for six or more months of the year. In Glades communities, nestled south of Lake Okeechobee, thats reality. Sugar companies set fire to cane fields spanning
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Is Sugarcane Native To Australia
Sugar cane was brought to Australia from South Africa with the First Fleet in 1788. In the same year Captain King took cane to Norfolk Island. Australias first centre of growing was at Port Macquarie, where Captain Allman, commandment of the penal settlement, supervised planting of cane from Norfolk Island in 1821.
Why Do Sugarcane Farmers Burn Their Fields
Farmers burn sugarcane crops before harvest to remove the leaves and tops of the sugarcane plant leaving only the sugar-bearing stalk to be harvested. This unnecessary harvesting practice negatively impacts the health, quality of life, and economic opportunity of residents living in and around the EAA.
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Using The Latest Technology From Field To Factory
Science and technology are important parts of farming. We rely on agricultural practices that are time-tested, continually improved, and supported by the best research and technology available. Our techniques not only follow state regulations, they are generally considered “Best Practices” to fully ensure the safety of our community.
We have improved and honed these techniques over decades through farmers local knowledge and expertise as well as leading research from institutions like the University of Floridas Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences .
Why Do They Burn Sugar Cane Fields In Australia
Why Do They Burn Sugar Cane Fields In Australia? Sugar cane burning season is now underway across northern NSW. Sugar cane burning is carried out by farmers before they harvest the cane. It helps make it easier to process the cane by removing things like the stalks and leaves. At this time of year its not unusual to see cane burns lighting up the night sky.
What is the purpose of burning sugar cane? Farmers burn sugarcane crops before harvest to remove the leaves and tops of the sugarcane plant leaving only the sugar-bearing stalk to be harvested. This unnecessary harvesting practice negatively impacts the health, quality of life, and economic opportunity of residents living in and around the EAA.
Do they still burn cane fields in Australia? Its not often a farmer will deliberately set their paddock alight and stand by to watch it burn to ash. That is unless youre a sugarcane farmer in the Burdekin region south of Townsville in north Queensland. Its the only cane growing region in Queensland that still burns all of its cane before harvesting it.
Do they still burn sugar cane fields? The practice of burning sugarcane fields has been largely discontinued throughout the world because of concerns about air pollution, but farmers still do it in Floridas main sugar-producing region known as the Glades.
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Respiratory Symptoms And Pulmonary Function
The inhalation of particulate matter released during the cutting of burned cane can affect the upper and lower airways, causing symptoms and respiratory diseases, as well as lung function impairment in the workers 18 .
Goto et al. 19 carried out a study involving 30 sugarcane cutters, with the main objective of evaluating nasal mucociliary transport, comparing the period of the harvest with the pre-harvest period. The authors did not observe differences in lung function between the periods. However, Prado et al. 18 developed a study with a larger number of workers and a control group, which evaluated respiratory symptoms and lung function. They found a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms and a decrease in pulmonary function among sugarcane cutters during the harvest period compared to pre-harvest, with a decline in forced expiratory volume in the first second , forced expiratory volume in the first second/forced vital capacity , and forced expiratory flow , characterizing an evolution with a pattern of obstructive ventilatory disorder. A study by Ferreira-Ceccato et al. 20 evaluated the acute effects, i.e., four hours after the start of work, on the first day of harvest of burned cane and did not observe any complaint of nasal symptoms in any of the evaluated workers. However, the presence of symptoms is not a marker sensitive to the acute effect assessed by the study, thus limiting its interpretation.
According To The New Food Economy Sugar Companies In Florida Are Being Sued Over A Frightening Practice That No One Knows About: Theyre Burning Sugar Cane Fields Like Crazy
This isnt just a harmless practice that isnt affecting anyone. Burning the fields goes on for months, and nearby residents say they are experiencing health issues because of it theyre the ones who filed a lawsuit against three of the biggest sugar companies in the country .
Sugar cane is a tall grass that looks similar to bamboo and is the most important source of the refined sugar that we eat in the U.S. It grows best in tropical states, especially Florida, which produces up to 17 million tons of sugar cane harvest every year, most of which is grown along the shores of Lake Okeechobee.
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Video: Lets Make This The Last Burn Season
Colin Walkes painted a stark picture for us today, asking each of us to think what it’s like to celebrate a wedding in our backyards as plumes of smoke billow in the background and black ash rains down to rest on a loved one’s white dress. Though it may seem unimaginable to some, smoke as a backdrop to daily life is a familiar reality for residents of the Glades communities south of Lake Okeechobee that can last up to eight months of each year. Courageous local leaders have inspired a movement for justice to bring an end to sugarcane burning in favor of safer, sustainable, burn-free harvesting. We are grateful to Colin Walkes, Robert Mitchell and Patrick Ferguson for leading
Bad Bill Alert: Right To Farm Legislation Poses A Threat To Florida
When does the “right to farm” become the “right to harm? On Tuesday the Florida House of Representatives’ Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee voted 14-4 to advance HB 1601, which ostensibly seeks to boost agri-tourism and protect farmers from newcomers who want to curtail farm operations. But we believe the effect of the bill will be to disenfranchise the already disenfranchised, like those who live near sugar fields and find themselves hacking and wheezing when smoke from the burning cane wafts in their direction. The bill curtails their ability to sue, requiring they live within 1/2 mile of the farm in question to file a nuisance action. It also raises the burden of proof, limits damages and requires plaintiffs who
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Ubiratan De Paula Santos
IDivisao de Pneumologia, Instituto do Coracao, Hospital das Clinicas HCFMUSP, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, BR
Conception: MRL, DMTZ, IBT, EAB, UPS. Article analysis: MRL, UPS, DMTZ. Manuscript writing: MRL, UPS. Critical review of intellectual content: MRL, DMTZ, IBT, EAB, UPS. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript and declare themselves responsible for all aspects of the work, ensuring its accuracy and integrity.
Conflict of Interest:
Problems With Monitoring Sugarcane Burning Pollution
The sugarcane industry insists it complies with Clean Air Act standards and that federal monitoring says the Glades have higher air quality than average. Technically, this is correct, but only because of a measurement loophole.
An investigation by ProPublica and The Palm Beach Post earlier this year found that there was only one air quality monitor in the area around the sugarcane fields, and its been broken for eight years. And it might not matter if the monitor was working correctly anyway. Compliance with the Clean Air Act is determined by the 24-hour average of particulate matter in the air, but because individual cane fields dont burn very long, pollution from the burning fields happens in quick episodes. So while the average amount of pollution detected over a 24-hour period might not be enough to trigger federal regulators to take action, ash and smoke may spike in short, intense episodes that are enough to set off asthma attacks and other problems. Investigators using their own monitors found that during some time windows, the amount of fine particulate matter in the air could be up to four times higher than the average, more than enough to cause respiratory distress.
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Video: There Is No Environmental Justice Without Social Justice
There is no bigger issue of environmental justice in Florida right now than the outdated, dangerous practice of pre-harvest sugarcane burning. During today’s Clean Water Conversation, leaders in the effort to stop sugarcane burning near Glades communities around Lake Okeechobee underscored the dangerous burning season conditions and the rise in community action to put an end to the practice for good. We owe a big thanks to Sierra Club’s Patrick Ferguson, Belle Glade resident and Friends of the Everglades board member Robert Mitchell, and family nurse practitioner and Steering Committee member of the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action Carol Lindsey for sharing their wealth of knowledge with us. We covered many important details during today’s Clean Water Conversation. If you missed the event today, you
Work Environment And Organization
The process of manual cane cutting is an activity that imposes a high physical load on the cutter, since it requires the performance of vigorous, fast, and repetitive movements with a machete. In addition, there is the loading of the sugarcane bundles 9 . The manual cutting of cane requires the cutting of several canes near the ground and their gathering in bundles that weigh about 10 kg to 15 kg. The bundles are loaded for about two to five meters and arranged in rows to be picked up by the trucks that transport them to the mill for grinding 34 . Payment per production is an additional risk factor, as it induces a longer rate of work to guarantee a slightly better wage and a greater possibility of hiring in subsequent harvests 8 .
This study recorded the activities in films and allowed a more precise analysis of the activity in the cutting of burned sugarcane. During the workday, a worker that cuts 13 tons/day performs, on average, 3,100 spinal pushups, 3,500 machete blows, and 1,000 rotations of the lumbar spine 13 .
The improper provision of personal equipment such as gloves and goggles, inadequate feeding and hydration and poor health conditions complement the environment and the work process to which these workers are subjected 16,17 .
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What You Need To Know About Sugarcane Burning
Between candy, baked goods, drinks and more, Americans eat a lot of white sugar, roughly 68 pounds a year. A little under half of that is produced from sugarcane, but growing that sugar isnt all sweet, especially for the people who live around cane fields in Central Florida, which are traditionally burned before harvest to make the processing simpler. Residents complain the burning aggravates respiratory problems, but havent had much success in fighting the regions big industry. But for consumers wanting to buy a product made in a better way, there are some options.
Everglades Illustrated: Cane Burning Risks Human Health
https://youtu.be/_89aQ3YSt-g Watch this video. Orange flames spit through the air as sugarcane leaves are burned from the stalk for harvest. Thick black smoke swirls and a single white bird wings its way above the fire. Florida Forest Service Active Burn Tracking Satellite Map – Feb. 8, 2022 Now look at this map. Each of those cones on the map indicates a sugarcane burn notice happening today and the direction of its plume. Dozens of these burns can happen on any given day from October to May, filling the air of surrounding towns with smoke and soot that can travel miles from the initial burn sites. At greatest risk are the children and the elderly residents of the Glades
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