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Rural DeSoto County is targeted for Florida’s next phosphate mine. Residents fear the worst

Phosphate, the lifeblood of Florida's fertilizer industry, is gradually being mined out in the region where Polk, Hillsborough, Manatee and Hardee counties meet. Now, phosphate miners are coveting land to the south, sparking fears in an area that is a regional source of drinking water.

Welcome to Arcadia, population around 8,000. It's the heart of — and only real city — in DeSoto County, a farming and ranching center that hearkens back to Old Florida. It's home to an historic downtown that got battered by Hurricane Charley in 2004, and Florida’s largest rodeo, anchored in a building named for the very company that wants to dig the state's newest phosphate mine.

Mosaic got a rare rebuke in 2018, when DeSoto County Commissioners voted against rezoning fourteen thousand acres of ranchlands and groves in the county's northwest corner for mining. But the company — which reported sales revenues in its phosphate division of $465 million in August alone — pressed back.

The nation's largest phosphate producer went to court, and shortly after that vote, county commissioners agreed to an arbitration mediator and let Mosaic have another vote as early as 2023.

A lot of people aren't so excited by that prospect.