April 15, 2014

Economic yearbook 2011

Florida's Biggest Private Landowners

The 10 — which own about a tenth of the state — will play a key role in Florida's future.

Cynthia Barnett | 4/1/2011

10 U.S. Sugar Corp.

U.S. Sugar Co.
[Photo: Mark Vaughn]

Private agricultural company owned by Mott foundations and company employees
Florida acres: 153,000
Headquarters: Clewiston

Depending on weather, growing conditions and federal subsidies, U.S. Sugar produces about 700,000 tons of cane sugar a year, about 10% of the sugar produced in America. It also owns a short-line railroad, the South Central Florida Express.

The economic slump withered a deal to sell the company's land to the state for Everglades restoration, and the South Florida Water Management District last fall purchased only 26,800 acres. The district kept an option to buy the remaining 153,000 acres, but Gov. Rick Scott campaigned against the deal — and has recommended Florida's water management districts slash budgets.

CEO Bob Buker says U.S. Sugar has a double set of long-term plans for its Florida lands, depending on whether the sale goes through: "If the state buys all the land, we farm it only until they need it for restoration," he says. "If not, we continue farming. Unfortunately, in Florida that means fighting off the government. Government is making it much harder for farmers to farm here in Florida."

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