KISSIMMEE, Fla. - With Florida cattlemen looking on, Obama administration officials announced on Friday the latest infusion of $80 million into an Everglades restoration plan to buy development rights to farms and ranches and improve water flow.
The administration says its three-year, multi-agency $1.5 billion investment in the project since 2009 has created 6,600 jobs. President Barack Obama has also requested $246 million for 2013.
"We're doing it to preserve the quality of the water and the quantity of water so that agriculture will have the use of it appropriately and the 8 million people in the region who rely on it will continue to have clean water," US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Reuters.
Many cattlemen like Cary Lightsey, a sixth generation rancher who manages 42,000 acres ( 17,000 hectares) near Kissimmee, applaud the program which provides cash and tax incentives to keep the land in agricultural use and preserve wildlife habitat.
"I would just rather die one day with respect, knowing I saved the land for our family and for the state of Florida," Lightsey said.