Saturday, March 28, 2015

Big Sugar, pressing forward to privatize Florida's water supply … by gimleteye

For Big Sugar, the exploitation of Florida taxpayers is a ceaseless enterprise. Its success is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. However much money Big Sugar earns for shareholders -- dominating Florida -- it is never enough.

With profits virtually guaranteed by federal farm bill policy, Big Sugar freely seeds Florida with disinformation campaigns through skilled and well-paid message machinery.

More and more, the 2010 deal between US Sugar and the state of Florida to sell its lands to the state of Florida looks like a tactic to politically neuter then-Governor Charlie Crist. Why? Because now, five years later, after Florida voters took to the polls and passed by 78 percent a measure to "guarantee", tamper-free (by the legislature) funding for land acquisition, Big Sugar has mounted its own campaign to discredit the option to buy that its top executives negotiated, themselves.

Crist made the deal with one of the Big Sugar behemoths, US Sugar. The 40,000 plus acres of land is necessary to begin the process of assembling adequate surface water storage -- from other sugar barons -- to protect the rest of south Florida from Big Sugar's pollution, generated by the outflow of excess fertilizer and toxic byproducts.

As soon as the 2010 deal was announced, the other Big Sugar giant, the billionaire Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach, harshly objected, galvanizing an impenetrable political morass.

The single significant result of the 2010 controversy? It propelled millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of Crist's political opponent, Marco Rubio. (Florida already knows where Jeb Bush stands: he is Big Sugar's golden boy and proved his worth in 2003, when he undertook to dismantle the federal/ state agreement on numerical pollution standards, resulting in ten years of Clean Water Act litigation.)

Today, the state legislature is acting as a political division of Big Sugar's shadow government. Big Sugar billionaires have now set loose their disinformation campaign through various public relations outlets; from the Tea Party ("Don't buy more land") to the Sunshine State News/ Pravda. Their strategy is to drown out -- or at least to compete -- for public attention and against the thousands of coastal residents who are desperate to have their shorefront real estate and quality of life protected from the outrageous pollution spewing from Lake Okeechobee.

This year's issue would seem to be whether the will of Florida voters -- to purchase more environmentally sensitive lands through the measure, Amendment 1 -- will be hijacked by Big Sugar and Ag Secretary Adam Putnam who is angling to be Florida's next governor or senator.

As usual, the controvery-of-the-moment provides cover for even worse from Big Sugar. Craig Pittman, the intrepid reporter at the St. Pete Times, got to the point this week without elaboration: Big Sugar is seeking to revolutionize Florida's water policy in order to mine profits from water. Pittman, by the way, reported last October on the secret, private-jet trips taken by state GOP leaders to the hunting preserve in Texas owned by the King Ranch, not only the largest land owner in Texas (a state where "ownership" of water goes along with land rights) but a significant owner of land in Florida's Everglades Agricultural Area.

The failure of the reported scandal to make a dent in voters' perception emboldened Big Sugar. Now is the time to strike. There will never be more favorable politics. Steal Florida's water.

Read Pittman's: "Florida taxpayers pay ranchers millions to hold water back from Lake Okeechobee."
"For generations, Florida's farmers and ranchers have used their land to grow oranges, sugar, tomatoes and beef cattle, among other things. But now they've added a highly profitable new crop: Water.

A state agency is paying large agricultural operators millions in taxpayer dollars to hold water on their property, treating it as if it were a crop. The agency sees it as a way to create a series of "reservoirs" without the expense of building anything permanent."

Once it is a "crop", it becomes "private property". Remember: the Fanjul's Miami colleague, George Lindemann, is litigating against Maggie Hurchalla -- former Martin County Commissioner -- in a SLAPP suit alleging Hurchalla's interference caused Lindemann from losing an opportunity to sell tens of millions of dollars of water to the municipality of West Palm Beach from a rock pit he owns adjacent to Big Sugar lands.

Whose water is Lindemann planning to sell? It not his to sell! How does the Tea Party -- funded by Big Sugar -- feel about that? It is clear enough: being used by corporate funders, whether by the Kochs or Big Sugar billionaires, is what Florida's Tea Party does best.


Anonymous said...

If overpaying US Sugar, the Fanjuls, King Ranch and Alico to store water south of the lake would provide a long-term solution to the problem, why not acquiesce and do a 99 year lease? It sure beats the cost and environmental consequences of continuing with current practices of dumping the water in the estuaries.

Anonymous said...

..."got to the point this week without elaboration: Big Sugar is seeking to revolutionize Florida's water policy in order to mine profits from water."

This is bad news Saturday on Eye on Miami.

Anonymous said...

Great posts this week.

Robin Pittman said...

Simply, BRILLIANT!!!!!!