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Sugar Deal: Great for Everglades, Bad on Pocketbook?

June 24th, 2008. By Dave Oei. 4,625 views.
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In what’s billed to be the largest land restoration and buyback in US History, Florida is purchasing 187,000 acres from US Sugar Corp which will eventually be rehabilitated to it’s natural Everglades habitat.  Doing so will help mitigate against future flooding and remove the need for some existing dams.  While making for some nice alligator, fish, and great egret homes.  Overall, it’s great news for the ecology of the Everglades and all the wildlife that exist in the region.

But, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  With corn and corn-related products at an all time high due to soaring food demand and the likes of ethanol, this Everglades deal will no doubt exasperate the corn pricing problem.  You see, US Sugar is currently producing about 10% of our current consumption of sugar.  Which means that either current surgar consumers will have to find other sources of sugar or switch to an alternative.

Well, just over 20 years ago most carbonated beverage makers made the switch to high-fructose corn syrup.  That was due to high tariffs on imported sugar and subsidies to corn farmers, which drove down corn prices while maintaining artificially high sugar prices.  But with corn already in very high demand and the sugar lobby still very protectionist, I figure Joe Consumer will have a lot to cry about once the Everglades deal goes through.

Don’t get me wrong.  Getting the Everglades back is qualatitively a very “good” thing.  But, by setting aside comprehensive planning and exploring potential impacts of this deal, the politicians involved may have just taken a draw from your pocketbook without you knowing.


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