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U.S. Sugar Says It Will Honor Land Contract -- If Reservoir Approved

Sugar cane is the dominant crop of Florida's agricultural heartland south of Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Amy Green
Sugar cane is the dominant crop of Florida's agricultural heartland south of Lake Okeechobee. Photo by Amy Green

U.S. Sugar Corp. says it would honor a previous agreement putting land south of Lake Okeechobee toward Everglades restoration.

U.S. Sugar staunchly has opposed a reservoir on the land, aimed at improving water flow after toxic algae blooms last year prompted emergency declarations in four counties.

But spokeswoman Judy Sanchez says if the Legislature approves the plan the company would honor a previous agreement authorizing the state to buy 153,000 acres.

"If the state were to execute that option our name's on the contract. We'd live up to it. But that's several billion dollars that does not fix the problem of the discharges to the estuaries, and we don't think that's good public policy."

She says the reservoir represents an economic threat to the region. U.S. Sugar is the nation's largest producer of sugar cane.

Environmental groups say the position represents a shift for the company. Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation says it's good news.

"We're encouraged that the sugar industry remains at the table and be a partner in solving the Everglades and the issues relating to the Everglades because the Everglades is the water supply for 8.2 million Floridians."

 

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.