May 13, 2022 - News

Florida water activists get bitter over "Big Sugar"

Illustration of a bag of sugar, labeled "$ugar."

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals have given $3.8 million and $2.2 million respectively to Florida candidates and their political committees in the 2022 election cycle, per an analysis by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau.

Yes, but: Sensing a power shift, clean water advocates say candidates should reject that money and quit doing the bidding of an industry that harms the environment.

What they're saying: "Big Sugar fights to keep sugar prices higher in America than anywhere else in the world," the group No Big Sugar Money wrote in an open letter. "Meanwhile, taxpayers foot the bill to clean polluted runoff from sugarcane fields and people who live near those fields pay to remove ash and soot from their properties."

Context: Florida produces more than half of America's cane sugar and uses a harvesting method called cane burning, which pollutes the air and water and creates so-called "black snow," which residents in the largely Black and Hispanic communities nearby claim hurts their health.

The bottom line: As reporter Mary Ellen Klass points out, Tallahassee isn't as friendly a landscape lately for Big Sugar.

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis has battled openly with the industry and the sugar companies tried and failed to pass a bill last session to force the South Florida Water Management District to send more Everglades water to agriculture.

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