Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Whom the gods would destroy...

They first subsidize. Big Sugar may be about to lose a Big Player. Although ostensibly for environmental reasons, the current tenuous hold sugar has on its highly protected trade status likely played a part in the ending of a major sugar producer.
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.

"It's mind-blowing," said Kirk Fordham, the executive director of the Everglades Foundation. "Who would have thought we'd see this in our lifetimes?"

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. [more]
While this may seem like a good thing for remaining producers like the sugar beet industry in the northern Plains, I think this will deeply reduce the political clout of sugar just when it is under increased fire from trade and subsidy critics.

It is also interesting to me to see the political realignment evident here. A Republican environmental governor??

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