Agriculture commissioner fires, takes consultants tied to sugar farmers off Lake O panel

nikki fried In: Agriculture commissioner fires, takes consultants tied to sugar farmers off Lake O panel | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. | Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

Since Big AG interests weigh so heavily on the scales that they are tipping over, it is refreshing to see our commissioner of agriculture lifting them back toward level just a bit.

Fear of mighty AG diverts many “environmental experts”  toward septics and urban fertilizer when the main cause is agricultural pollutants.  Big Sugar greases all the palms, leaving nothing to chance.

Thank you Commissioner Fried, you may become a model of inspiration for the timid.

Read the complete article here in TCPalm.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
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– A river is like a life: once taken,
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Agriculture commissioner fires, takes consultants tied to sugar farmers off Lake O panel

 

The Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has fired a consulting firm with ties to the sugar industry.

Ag Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried “has chosen to terminate the contract of MacVicar Consulting,” according to a message posted over the weekend on the department’s Facebook page.

The department had a $35,000 contract calling for firm President Thomas K. MacVicar and two employees, William Baker and Lennart “Len” Lindahl, to help with “monitoring, understanding and influencing the water-related issues important to agriculture in South Florida.”

More: Read the agreement between the ag department and MacVicar Consulting

In particular, the three were to provide expertise as members of the panel working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop new guidelines for operating Lake Okeechobee.

 

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced May 8, 2019, Chris Pettit is the state’s new agricultural water policy director. (Photo: WPTV SCREENSHOT)

Environmentalists criticize

That drew criticism from environmentalists who have called for the lake elevation to be kept lower than the Corps currently calls for — between 12 feet 6 inches and 15 feet 6 inches — as a way to prevent discharges that can cause massive blue-green algae blooms in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

The sugar industry has long advocated keeping plenty of water in Lake Okeechobee, claiming allowing it to drop below 11 feet in elevation threatened water supplies for both farmers and municipalities.

Fried’s top priority on Lake O “remains the public health of the surrounding communities,” the Facebook post states. “She continues to work diligently towards achieving reduced nutrient impacts to Florida’s waterways, including major revisions to agricultural best management practices.”

Fried terminated the contract “because it’s at her discretion to do so,” spokesman Franco Ripple told TCPalm in an email.

“It’s great news that Commissioner Fried has listened to Floridians who are sick and tired of business as usual and finally decided to do the right thing,” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, who has called for both lower lake levels and firing MacVicar, said in an email.

‘Special access’?

Mast maintained MacVicar, Baker and Lindahl, who are registered to lobby for sugar farmers by the South Florida Water Management District, would give the industry “special access and influence” on the Lake O panel.

More: Mast wants sugar lobbyists off Army Corps’ Lake O planning panel

The ag department countered the three were “technical consultants” who participated in the panel’s meetings but only three state employees from the Office of Agricultural Water Policy were appointed to the panel, known as the Project Delivery Team.

More:Money for land acquisition used to pay consultants

Tyler Treadway is an environment reporter who specializes in issues facing the Indian River Lagoon. Support his work on TCPalm.com.  Contact him at 772-221-4219 and [email protected]

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