Everglades Policy Sweetened Liberally
December 17, 1999
"The federal sugar program is," says author Paul Roberts, "without question, liberalism at its worse: a well-intended venture that has outlived its usefulness, warped the political system, and is helping to destroy a unique environment." That unique environment is the Florida Everglades, which an $8 billion, taxpayer- and consumer-funded plan will not restore, according to Roberts.
Through price supports, loan guarantees and import quotas, the federal sugar program keeps the domestic price of sugar some 50 percent above the world market price. It adds $1.4 billion to consumers' food bills, or $5.19 per person, annually.
- Indeed, according to Roberts, the second largest sugar cane grower in the United States, U.S. Sugar, is partly owned by the Mott Foundation, a funder of liberal and environmental causes around the world.
- The proposed Clinton-Gore Everglades restoration plan will do little to increase the flow of water through the Everglades or stop fertilizer runoff from cane fields; but it is supported by big green groups like the World Wildlife Fund and National Audubon Society.
- The plan was largely drafted by the sugar growers' lobbyists, says Roberts, and reluctantly adopted by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.
- Yet production costs suggest that U.S. sugar policies encourage farming in marginal swamplands that could not be profitably planted otherwise; whereas U.S. cane producers spend $375 producing a metric ton of raw sugar, Australians spend just $255 per ton.
One of the program's biggest congressional critics, Sen. Charles Shumer (D-N.Y.), calls it "one of the most invidious, inefficient, Byzantine, special-interest, Depression-era federal programs."
Source: Paul Roberts, "The Sweet Hereafter," Harper's, November 1999.
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