Q&A Friday #91: Big Sugar And The Everglades

Question: “I e-mailed this to you earlier this week. Charlie Crist has orchestrated a deal where the State of Florida is going to buy U.S. Sugar out for almost two billion dollars and is going to flood their land as part of an Everglades restoration project. All the fat-cat snowbirds on the coasts and upstate are giving high-fives calling this a victory over the evil “Big Sugar”. They don’t realize or seem to care that thousands of people in my hometown will be jobless and be forced to leave their homes. I live in Clewiston, FL which is where U.S. Sugar’s home office has been for over 70 years. The entire town revolves around the sugar industry. They have a total of 1,700 employees that will be jobless in six years when the state takes over and floods the land. Everybody I know either works for U.S. Sugar or works for a company that does business with them. Families that have been here for generations will be forced to relocate and this town, as well as several other communities around Lake Okeechobee, will be a ghost town within ten years. And for what? It’s not like this is going to help the Everglades. The mass over-development of the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/east coast area is as much to blame for the damage to the Everglades as any agricultural industry, perhaps more so.

My question is, does it seem funny to you that Crist would do this? I wouldn’t expect a white-collar pretty-boy like Crist (who isn’t even a Florida native) to care about us as people, but I wouldn’t expect him to sell thousands of tax-payers down the river either. Does it seem like a coincidence that Crist and McCain just recently changed their positions on off-shore drilling in Florida? If I had to guess, he’s giving the environmentalists this win in the Everglades so that they’ll compromise on the off-shore drilling. It doesn’t really matter what happens to the Glades to them because in ten or fifteen years they’ll realize that their plan didn’t work and the only way to salvage anything out of the deal will be to develop all of that old cane-field land and put $800,000 homes on it so rich northerners have a place to golf in the winter. All of the people who normally would have stood in the way of that will have been long gone by then.

What can my friends and neighbors do to bring this to the national spotlight to hold Crist, U.S. Sugar, and the environmentalists accountable? They need to know that they cannot get away with this without having to own up to what they’ve done to citizens who’ve lived and worked here their entire lives.

If anybody is interested in reading more about this, just google “Crist Sugar Clewiston”. Most articles on the news-papers’ websites do nothing but sing the praises of this deal, while the comments are filled with people like myself who are very upset about it.” — The_Muck_Man

Answer: Be forewarned; my answer probably isn’t going to make you happy.

First of all, the whole sugar industry in the United States only exists because of the intervention of Congress. On one end, you have Congress giving them our tax dollars to grow sugar and on the other end, Congress is putting tariffs on sugar being imported from other countries to keep them from undercutting American sugar growers.

So, in order to preserve those 1700 jobs you mention — and the other in the industry — not only are our tax dollars being wasted, we’re paying more for sugar as well.

With that in mind, I feel badly for the families that are losing their jobs, but personally, I’d like to see the whole sugar industry in the U.S. go belly up — and, yes, that would mean a lot of people would lose their jobs.

That being said, I’ve always thought the googly-eyed soliloquies from people over the pristine beauty of the Everglades were a real load of hooey. It’s a ^%^%$#%$ swamp and spending billions of dollars to make it bigger is a complete waste of money.

As to Crist’s motivations, you’re probably right. It’s probably about political cover. That’s what happens when you live in a country that does an excellent job of taking care of the environment, but doesn’t get any credit for it — because groups of environmental wackos make a living trying to convince people that we’re poisoning the earth. Because of that, politicians end up doing all sorts of really dumb things that they know are completely foolish — just so that they can feature it in a campaign commercial about how much they love the environment one day.

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