Thursday, March 17, 2016

Breaking up the Big Sugar cartel in Florida ... by gimleteye

On social media like Facebook, Instagram, and the blogs, an unprecedented event is occurring:  people on Florida coasts are linking up to express outrage against Big Sugar and to organize for the purchase of lands in sugar cane production south of Lake Okeechobee for water treatment marshes.

Big Sugar's chokehold on public opinion is slipping. 

From Florida Bay and Monroe County to populations ringing the Everglades, the chorus is rising: buy Big Sugar lands, send clean, fresh water south.

The refusals from Big Sugar ("We are just ordinary people and good citizens who care" and "we've already done our fair share") cannot stand up to facts: the industry's manipulation of water management infrastructure and priorities mask huge damage and costs to property owners and tourism-dependent businesses on both Florida coasts.

Moreover, Big Sugar is not just "ordinary people": it represents corporate welfare at its most toxic efflorescence. The sugar subsidy in the Farm Bill mainly accrues to the net worth of two billionaire families: the Fanjuls -- of the Flo-Sun and Florida Crystals' empire -- and the descents of Charles Stuart Mott who control US Sugar Corporation.

Big Sugar's plan has a single objective: to make the Fanjul and Mott descendants as rich as possible. Doing so, when heavy rainfall requires the emptying of Lake Okeechobee, means turning other people's property and businesses into sacrifice zones.

Ultimately, the Fanjuls and Mott descendants have one objective: to pin their hundreds of thousands of acres to an imaginary value as subdivisions and not agricultural land.

Every move of Big Sugar's PR juggernaut, including local economic groups, Chambers of Commerce and trade councils, is to make that value less hypothetical, as though there were a thousand homes per acre and not a crop -- sugarcane -- that, in excess, poisons people and is more addictive than cocaine. Its armies of lobbyists, "environmental" land use lawyers, and elected officials have spent decades inching the Everglades Agricultural Area toward its valuation as strip malls and zero lot line subdivisions.

The difference between Big Sugar's imaginary value and a realistic appraisal of its land worth is measured by political outcomes. That is why Big Sugar spends millions of dollars to influence elections from dog-catcher to the White House. In the GOP presidential primary, Big Sugar bet heavily on Jeb Bush, first, and Marco Rubio, second, and this week suffered an uncharacteristic loss.

Pepe Fanjul and Hillary Clinton, good friends
Government does have a legitimate means to put private land in public ownership, if sellers will not agree to sell and an important public purpose is served. It is called eminent domain, and it takes a governmental entity -- whether at the state or federal level -- to initiate.

For any "unwilling" property owner in the Everglades watershed, the hint of eminent domain proceedings is like winning the Powerball lottery. Just ask Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam. In lieu of a lengthy and costly eminent domain court case, his family farm was purchased by the state for $25 million only a year after being appraised at $5 million.

For Big Sugar, eminent domain is like the chicken and the egg: which comes first? -- its subdivisions with zero lot line housing or a massive taxpayer buyout. This is not a complicated story, but it is an end-game and one that Big Sugar has successfully blocked from telling.

Decades of delays in fixing what is wrong with Florida's capitulation to Big Sugar require the intervention of Florida voters.

The incrementalism that passes for Everglades restoration can only be stopped by voters insisting on a change to Big Sugar's "most favored nation status".

It will take millions of voters to bring the day, closer, when the state's waterways, property and jobs tied to Florida Bay, Sanibel, Fort Myers and Stuart are no longer treated as Big Sugar's collateral damage on the way to a billion dollar taxpayer buyout.

You see: one way or another, Big Sugar will get its price. Florida voters must push that day, closer, because we really have run out of time.

Buy the land. Send clean, fresh water south.

And it's the SAME story on Florida's west coast.
And here.


Anonymous said...

You go Gimlet!

Anonymous said...

Hillary needs to get her ground game together now for the get-out-the vote effort. She needs to tie top vote getting operatives down now with financial commitments. You notice Trump has these large crowds of 25,000+ people in the middle of the week? It is not because people just want to hear him. This is the result of top dollar organizers, working very hard to put everything in place long before Trump arrives. In Black communities if you wait too long to tie people down, Trump money would have already appeared and brought off the best consulting and field operations talent. And Hillary will be left in the dust, just like the Republican party. Obama put no money on the street in the Black communities, he gave all his campaign money to White people. Hillary can't afford to do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Just so all the readers don't get confused
The water on the east coast is heading north