U.S. Sugar Deal Bittersweet, Florida Lawmakers & Growers Believe

As the state of Florida plans to spend $1.34 billion to buy land from U.S. Sugar, key legislators and businessmen cast their doubt before their ballot on the efficacy of the purchase. State lawmakers are set to meet, to discuss whether the plan can accomplish restoration of the Everglades or is merely a corporate bailout.

State Representative Juan Zapata, R-Miami, chairman of the Miami-Dade legislative delegation, believes the timing of the deal remains troublesome and could actually prevent currently approved progress to restore the waterway. ”We basically eliminate the projects to do land acquisition,” he said.

State Senator Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton — current chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee — has requested that the government delay the project vote from December until February to allow legislators more time to consider the economic impacts of the plan. U.S. Sugar’s vice president, Robert Coker, said that the delay would be taken as a rejection.

The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida also opposes the deal. According to George Wedgworth, president and CEO of the cooperative, “The deal – as currently constructed – would imperil the very livelihoods of the small and medium-sized farmers who make up the cooperative by turning USSC into a super-competitor.” He believes the exchange would create unfair competition for small growers.

Read more here, here and here.

Sources: South Florida Business Journal, Herald-Tribune and the Miami Herald

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