Friday, August 14, 2015

Sen. John McCain on Big Sugar: "One of the most obscene farm subsidies ever conceived" ... by gimleteye

The following report from the Naples Daily News and advertisement in the Stuart News draws attention to the potential role of Cuba in the future world sugar supply and also how cartel producers in the U.S. are gaming Everglades restoration as a delaying tactic until they can profit from converting sugar lands to cities in the remaining historic Everglades while shifting production to whatever place on the map is most profitable; whether Cuba or the Dominican Republic is immaterial so long as sugar billionaires like the Fanjuls billionaires of Coral Gables and Palm Beach control the outcome.

The cartel producers do take seriously the inflammation of non-traditional Everglades constituencies like property owners along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, due to cartel-driven water management practices that spew dangerous toxins into popular waterways. These are, by the way, mostly Republican voters.

News rarely travels beyond the source of infection, like the following report from the local CBS affiliate in Stuart: "Doctors Say Man Severe Leg Infection Is 'Most Likely' From The Water Near The Stuart Sandbar. "Medical Examiners confirmed 65 year-old David Trudell died last week from a bacterial blood infection. Trudell’s family says David was fishing in Fort Pierce, July 18, in the Indian River Lagoon about 5 miles north of the North A1A bridge when he cut his foot on a fish fin. Now this week, Bruce Osborne says after hearing of Trudell’s death, he took his leg infection seriously. Osborne believes he was infected by the bacteria in the water near the Stuart Sandbar."

The cartel producers are counting on voter inattention to prevail as it has in the past, and to that end layer soft public relations to sooth and encourage people to believe, "we live here too". What they won't say: Big Sugar poisons people, poisons democracy, and poisons the Everglades.

Sugar from Cuba not a concern to U.S. sugar producers
Bartholomew Sullivan - NAPLES DAILY NEWS - Jun 29, 2015

WASHINGTON D.C. - WASHINGTON — Powerful forces with a lot of clout and money are making sure the U.S. Sugar Program stays intact, recently killing long-held plans to flood sugar land in the Everglades while holding on to lucrative subsidies and price supports in Washington.

The expansion of the industry in South Florida after the 1959 Cuban Revolution has resulted in an $8.4 million annual lobbying effort and campaign donations that buy the support of loyal members of Congress. The combined effect is to keep sugar cane and sugar beet prices higher than world prices, with resulting higher food prices, critics complain. Lobbyists for the American Sugar Alliance, other sugar trade associations and individual sugar producers such as Palm Beach-based Fanjul Corp. and Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar spend millions annually.

Even an eventual opening to sugar-producing Cuba is likely to have only a marginal impact on the U.S. market, most likely limited to high-quality organic sugar for niche markets like boutique confectionaries, said U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council president John S. Kavulich. The council, founded in 1994, is a nonprofit, membership-based company that provides information on Cuban business prospects.

“I don’t think that U.S. sugar beet producers or corn syrup producers should be terribly worried about the short, medium or long term impact of sugar from Cuba,” Kavulich said. The laws, regulations and policies relating to the importation of sugar to the U.S. to protect the domestic market are likely to stay even after a “post-Raul Castro, post Fidel Castro” Cuba, he said. Other sugar exporters wouldn’t willingly allow Cuba to cut into their market share.

U.S. Sugar Corp. made political campaign contributions of $100,000, and Florida Crystals spent $25,000, in early 2014 supporting the Liberty and Leadership Fund, the single-candidate super-political action committee supporting state Sen. Lisbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers. She lost to Curt Clawson of Bonita Springs in last year’s three-way Republican primary ahead of the special election to replace congressman Trey Radel after his arrest for cocaine possession.

Florida members of Congress Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale; Lois Frankel, D-Boca Raton; and former member Steve Sutherland, R-Panama City, were among the top 20 recipients of contributions from sugar interests last year, each receiving more than $30,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The U.S. Sugar Program, which restricts imports from 40 sugar-exporting nations and supports a domestic sugar price well-above the cost of repaying crop-production loans, has plenty of critics. During last year’s debate over the Farm Bill, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the program costs American consumers $3 billion a year through crop forfeitures, tariffs and marketing controls.

“It is one of the most obscene farm subsidies ever conceived,” he said, “and this Farm Bill does nothing to reform it.” While the bill did pare back subsidies for many crops, it left sugar alone.

McCain is one of 16 co- sponsors of the Sugar Reform Act of 2015. An identical measure in the House has 41 co-sponsors, none from Florida.

Lobbyists from Washington-based North Bridge Communications, were paid $70,000 by the American Sugar Alliance in the first quarter of this year to lobby against those measures, lobbying disclosure records show. The alliance has paid a Lubbock, Texas, firm $25,000 per quarter since January 2014 for lobbying. The Arlington, Virginia-based alliance spent $780,000 on lobbying in the first three months of this year on regional and bilateral trade agreements that involve access by foreign sugar to the U.S. market, including the Trans- Pacific Partnership, the trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Separately, U.S. Sugar has paid the D.C. lobbying law firm Davis and Harman $50,000 per quarter since January 2014, when the most recent five-year Farm Bill was being negotiated. Florida Crystals paid the Washington-based firm Smith and Boyette $120,000 in the same period for work on legislation involving free-trade agreements, among other things, records show.

Five sugar industry groups — the American Sugar Alliance, American Crystal Sugar, U.S. Beet Sugar Association, Fanjul Corp. and the Sugar Cane League — paid $8.4 million for lobbyist last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a good-government watchdog group.

Big Sugar’s recent efforts resulted in the South Florida Water Management District board’s unanimous vote in May to terminate its option to buy 48,600 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee for use as a water storage area.

The water management district had been in favor of the plan until recently, but Big Sugar’s plans changed, said Richard Grosso, director of the Land Use Law Clinic at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

Grosso believes it’s no coincidence that U.S. Sugar is proposing an 18,000-unit residential development called Sugar Hill on some of the option land south of Clewiston, accommodating 58,000 people by the time it is built out, according to Southwest Florida Regional Planning District documents. Part of the development would be on Caloosahatchee restoration land.

U.S. Sugar maintained that the largest 26,000-acre parcel of the option land, if dug out four feet deep, would only have held 104,000 acre-feet of water, a small fraction of the 4.5 million acre-feet discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers in 2013.

“More than 117,000 acres in this area has already been purchased for Everglades restoration, and that land is in the southern end where the state and federal projects have been designed as the best places for storing and treating and sheet-flowing water into the Everglades,” said U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez.

Local officials in Clewiston and Hendry County were dead-set against the sale, which they believed would harm the local economy long dependent on sugar production.

Asked if a future opening to Cuba might result in more imported sugar, Sanchez said any answer “would be pure speculation at this point.”

“We have trade regulations; we have the Farm Bill; we have forty-something other countries that have rights to import sugar into our country, and I doubt they’re going to just step aside and say ‘give our sugar imports to Cuba,’” Sanchez said, referring to their import quota rights.

Sugar baron and Cuban exile Alfonso Fanjul told The Washington Post late last year that he “would like to see our family back in Cuba, where we started,” drawing the ire of several South Florida Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio, and U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, the latter of whom called Fanjul’s position a “betrayal.”

Fanjul, who reportedly lost 150,000 acres and 10 sugar mills when the Castro government nationalized his family’s holdings, has traveled to his native country in recent years but acknowledged conditions have to change before he’d be willing to invest in Cuba.

His brother, Pepe Sr., told the newspaper he would return to Cuba only when “Cubans are reunited.” Neither returned calls seeking comment.


Geniusofdespair said...

If I wrote this blog there would be a caption under the newspaper:

"I Don't Think So"

cyndi said...

"More than 117,000 acres in this area has already been purchased for Everglades restoration, and that land is in the southern end where the state and federal projects have been designed as the best places for storing and treating and sheet-flowing water into the Everglades,” said U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez."
I love when Judy says these things. Was it written down on crib note.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how normalized trade with Cuba would effect the sugar barons.