Thursday, 26 June 2008

U.S. Sugar to sell land to Florida for Everglades renewal

LOXAHATCHEE, Florida: The dream of a restored Everglades, with water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, has moved a giant step closer to reality after the largest sugar cane producer in the United States agreed to sell all of its assets to Florida and go out of business.
Under the proposed deal, Florida will pay $1.75 billion for U.S. Sugar, which would have six years to continue farming before turning over 187,000 acres, or about 75,500 hectares, north of Everglades National Park, along with two sugar refineries and other assets.
It would be Florida's biggest land acquisition ever, and the magnitude and location of the purchase left environmentalists and state officials giddy.
Even before Governor Charlie Crist arrived to make the announcement against a backdrop of water, grass and birds, dozens of advocates had gathered. After years of battling with U.S. Sugar over water and pollution, many of them said that the prospect of a partnership came as a shock.
The details of the deal, which is scheduled to be completed over the next few months, may define how long the honeymoon lasts. Previous acquisitions took longer to integrate than had been expected initially, and because U.S. Sugar's fields are not all contiguous, complicated land swaps with other businesses may be required.

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