Biggest U.S. Sugar Cane Grower to Close Domestic sugar producers are reeling from the news that the largest sugar cane grower, U.S. Sugar, is closing. The company is selling its land to Florida to help preserve the Everglades. Domestic producers worry that losing the major ally in their lobbying efforts will sour their ability to shape national sugar policy and set prices.

Biggest U.S. Sugar Cane Grower to Close

Biggest U.S. Sugar Cane Grower to Close

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Domestic sugar producers are reeling from the news that the largest sugar cane grower, U.S. Sugar, is closing. The company is selling its land to Florida for $1.7 billion, so the state can use it to preserve the Everglades. Now domestic producers are worried that losing such a major ally in their lobbying efforts will sour their ability to shape national sugar policy and set prices in the future.

Florida Gains Everglades Land from U.S. Sugar

Florida is buying 187,000 acres of South Florida land from U.S. Sugar Corp., a move that will boost efforts to restore the Everglades, state officials said Tuesday.

U.S. Sugar will hand over the farmland to Florida for $1.75 billion; the company is then expected to go out of business in six years, company and state officials said.

Most of U.S. Sugar's land is south of Lake Okeechobee, in an area vital to the Everglades' health. Announcing the agreement, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) said the deal provides a long-sought "missing link" that will help restore the natural flow of water from Okeechobee south to Florida Bay.

"This represents — if we're successful, and I believe we will be — the largest conservation purchase in the history of the state of Florida," Crist said.

The Everglades wetlands is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and it is home to rare and endangered species, such as the American crocodile and the Florida panther.

Details still have to be worked out, but U.S. Sugar Chief Executive Officer Robert Buker said he expects shareholders would receive $350 a share.

The company would keep using the land to produce sugar for the next six years and provide a severance package for its nearly 1,900 employees to ease the transition.