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Environmentalists Attack Florida Sugar Growers After Failed Land Purchase

Panelists discussed sugar growers' political influence and impact on the environment. Photo by Amy Green

Environmentalists are attacking Florida sugar growers after failing to persuade state leaders to buy U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.

They gathered over the weekend in West Palm Beach for a “Big Sugar Summit.”

The day-long summit drew a couple hundred environmentalists and elected leaders.

Mary Barley is chairwoman of the Everglades Trust. She says environmentalists want to make sugar growers’ political contributions toxic.

“They need to be toxic, that no elected official ever wants to take money from them. So the bottom line is without that we cannot win.”

Environmentalists wanted the U.S. Sugar land for a reservoir, but the purchase failed to gain much support among state leaders.

Discussions were on sugar growers’ political influence, history in the state and impact on the Everglades.

Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner says environmentalists’ attacks on sugar growers affirms the need in the region south of the lake to diversify its economy. U.S. Sugar is based in Hendry County.

“U.S. Sugar is one of the biggest advocates to helping Hendry County be able to overcome some of its inabilities from an economic standpoint.”

U.S. Sugar is the nation’s largest producer of sugar cane. It says the land is not necessary for Everglades restoration.


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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »