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calendar   Tuesday - June 24, 2008

The Greenies Win One, Thanks To “Little Maverick” FL Governor Crist

Florida trying to buy up (and eventually shut down) half the state’s sugar farmlands?

At a news conference Tuesday, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. near the imperiled “River of Grass”, Governor Crist is expected to announce a $1.75 billion deal to essentially buy the U.S. Sugar Corporation, including 187,000 acres of farmland that once sat in the northern Everglades. If the deal goes through (and though the announcement will be taking place, the deal isn’t set in stone), it will extinguish a powerful 77-year-old company with 1,700 employees and deep roots in South Florida’s coal-black organic soil. It will also resurrect and reconfigure a moribund 8-year-old Everglades replumbing effort that is supposed to be the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project in the history of the planet.

The purchase would give the state control of nearly half the 400,000 acres of sugar fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area below Lake Okeechobee, although sources said U.S. Sugar would lease back its land for several years. Environmentalists hope that eventually, the area will become storage reservoirs, treatment marshes and perhaps even a flowway reconnecting the lake to the Glades. This could help recreate the original north-to-south movement of the “River of Grass”, and eliminate damaging pulses of excess water into coastal estuaries. That would be good news for panthers and gators, dolphins and herons, ghost orchids and royal palms.

Crist has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Senator John McCain, and they both took a lot of flak in Florida last week when they dropped their opposition to offshore drilling. But Crist has been true to his pledge to be “the Everglades governor,” replacing many of Jeb Bush’s industry-friendly aides with eco-friendly appointees, blocking the Legislature’s efforts to eliminate funding for restoration, and stopping the sugar industry from pumping polluted runoff into the lake. In a recent interview with TIME, he hinted that he was planning some “breathtaking changes” for the Everglades. “Putting your heart and soul into it really makes a difference,” he said.

Sugar has been on of my pet peeves for years. Sugar costs more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. It has tremendous price supports and protective legislation, to the point where actual sugar is hardly used at all in any of the packaged food products we buy. No, we get corn syrup instead. Not even beet sugar. The entire sugar fix thing went in around the time that Hawaii was set to become a state, and it’s a nasty sham that costs us billions every year. I feel we should get our sugar from all the little islands in the Caribbean instead. This would pump lots of money into their tiny economies, bring many of them up out of turd-world status, and utterly cement them to the US economy. Plus, eliminating the sugar price support would mean lower prices for our consumers and a whole lot less of that damn corn syrup with all the possible health complications it has.

Is it a good idea for a state to become an owner of an agribusiness industry? Usually not. In this case? I don’t know. But this instance does show that some Republicans can make a big effort in the environmental arena.

image

Harvesting sugar in Florida. Look, no slaves! No stoop labor!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 06/24/2008 at 04:41 PM   
Filed Under: • Big BusinessEnvironment •  
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