Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet unanimously approved the request of two agriculture companies Wednesday to allow them to renew their leases to farm state land in exchange for swapping other parcels with the state to use for Everglades clean-up efforts.
The governor, as well as Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater ignored concerns of environmental groups that the conditions of the leases to A. Duda & Sons and Florida Crystals were overly generous and will limit the state's options for cleaning up the Everglades in the future.
The environmentalists urged the Cabinet to slow down and re-negotiate a shorter-term lease that gives the state the options it may need if the restoration projects require more land in the future.
"You are the landlord and it is your right and your duty to insist that the tenant maximize their efforts to reduce the impact of the land," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "The lease extensions preclude your ability to insist upon that accountability."
But Melissa Meeker, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, told the Cabinet there will be no need for the leased land.