U.S. Sugar’s Sweet Deal
In the everything that’s old is new again department, today The New York Times reports that Florida’s ailing U.S. Sugar Corporation stands to profit mightily from a deal originally meant to preserve the Everglades:
The proposal was downsized only five months after it was announced. By April 2009, amid the deepening recession, the state said it could afford to purchase only 72,800 acres of United States Sugars land, for $536 million. The company would stay in business and the state would retain the option of buying the remaining 107,000 acres at a future date.
United States Sugar dictated many of the terms of the deal as state officials repeatedly made decisions against the immediate needs of the Everglades and the interests of taxpayers, an examination of thousands of state e-mail messages and records and more than 60 interviews showed.
Reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Damien Cave detail how the company’s lobbyists, which included one of Gov. Charlie Crist’s top fundraisers for his gubernatorial campaign, managed to negotiate the sweet deal.
For decades the powerful sugar lobby has padded the pockets of lobbyists and politicians alike. Since 1990, sugar interests have poured more than $32 million in to federal campaigns and party committees alone. Their efforts have helped preserve the Depression-era federal sugar support system, most recently in the 2008 Farm bill. This helped prop up the Florida sugar industry, which in turn polluted the Everglades–and now it appears that U.S. Sugar Corporation has negotiated another sweet deal.