Florida farming operations have always been major contributors to the food supply of the United States. More than 20 years ago, some noticeable changes began to affect the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Birds were no longer nesting along the shores, fish were dying and small animals were staying away. Scientists became concerned with the phosphorous levels in the water. Surface waterways throughout the state were studied for various chemicals to determine the source of the phosphorous. Immediate changes were required to change the course before it was too late. Florida Crystals Corporation, led by Pepe Fanjul, was one of the early adopters of the phosphorous reduction efforts.
Maximizing the yield on every acre is essential in a farming operation since profits are dependent on the amount of crop that can be sold each year. Fertilizers have always provided necessary nutrients that would encourage plant growth for high-yield crops. Millions of acres of farmland were enhanced with phosphorous-rich fertilizer. Changes to this procedure would cause farmers to find ways to capture the water runoff from the farmland. Pepe Fanjul and Florida Crystals Corporation have contributed to the creation of filter marshes on 60,000 of former farmland. Water from the large farms is captured to trap the phosphorous. Natural filtration reduces the amount of phosphorous that proceeds downstream.
Over the past 20 years, Florida’s sugar producers have implemented the best practices that continue to improve the quality of the surface water. Pepe Fanjul is proud of the joint accomplishment that has returned the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee to the beautiful wildlife habitats that made Florida famous. Annual efforts to reduce phosphorous rates will continue as long as the farming operations continue to contribute to the nation’s ability to feed people here at home as well as around the world.