Trash, trespassing becoming issue for sugar cane farmers | Local News Stories

As the sugar cane harvest continues, most people see the oversized trucks and stubble fields as signs of progress.

However, there are some barriers to getting all of the work done on time. Many farmers have had to stop working to transport sugar cane to instead take rubbish from the sugar cane rows for illegal dumping.

“This is becoming a big problem,” said Ricky Gonsoulin, co-owner of Gonsoulin Farms and a member of the Teche Growers Association. “We are currently receiving data on how many people are arrested and how many are being prosecuted. If we’re not aggressive we’ll just keep doing it. “

Iberia community sheriff Tommy Romero said he had met with growers and was determined to help resolve the problem.

“I went up to them and I think they expected me to give the usual crime prevention speech,” said Romero. “But I got up and asked her, ‘What do you need from the sheriff’s office?’ And the biggest problem they had was unloading and entering the fields illegally. “

In the fallow season, when the hive is low, Romero said there is not much of a problem. But as it gets bigger and potential landfills are no longer visible, there is an increase in dumping incidents, according to him.

Under the Louisiana Criminal Code, gross waste requires the accused to appear in court, Romero said.

Aside from the effort of taking the time to appear before a judge, it doesn’t come cheap. A first offense fines the mocker between $ 500 and $ 1,000 along with eight hours of community service in a court-approved waste disposal program. A second conviction earns the perpetrator a fine of between $ 1,000 and $ 2,500 plus 24 hours of community service.

If this doesn’t deter someone, the third offense could result in repeat offenders being fined between $ 1,500 and $ 5,000 with their driver’s license suspended for a year, and them for up to 30 days or a period between Civilian service ends up in prison for 24 and 100 hours.

Under the law, any evidence of ownership of the garbage that is dumped can lead to charges being brought.

The bigger problem, however, is finding an alternative for residents to get rid of their trash in the first place. While there is a good amount of traditional trash like household trash and paper, many of the items farmers find are much bulkier. Washing machines, dryers, mattresses and even boat trailers have recently appeared in the sugar cane fields of the municipality of Iberia.

“And tires, lots of tires,” said Gonsoulin. “One of the main problems is finding a place to put it. This is due to the local government. If we find something we have to put it on the street, call the sheriff, call the community, then they have to pick it up. And they’re understaffed. “

Romero said the plan is to step up enforcement and hold those who dispose of their trash accountable.

“Sometimes when we get a call, the farmers will work out a compromise with the offender,” said Romero. “In that case, we can’t make a complaint as we wish.”

But it doesn’t always work that way. Recently, Gonsouilin said farmers could identify who threw garbage in the field and get MPs to go to the person’s house.

“When they talked to his wife, she said, ‘I didn’t know he did that!'” Gonsouin said. “After the MPs paid a visit, they came out and picked up all the rubbish.”

He said he would advocate a billboard similar to that used by Crime Stoppers to warn potential offenders and prevent future dumping.

“We talked about the use of cameras like the ones used by Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Gonsoulin. “We could get pictures and use them with a big banner that said, ‘We’re watching.'”

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