Final: The Sugar Industry and the Florida Everglades

This discussion topic submitted by Larry Lapachin ( at 11:10 am on 7/23/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

History of the Sugar Industry in the Florida Everglades
1. 1905
A. Napoleon Broward ran for FL governor and promised to drain the Everglades (he won the election).
B. Importation of the Australian Melaleuca tree; a species that is known for its ability to take in great amounts of water.
C. People (generally) believed the Everglades could be used for productive farmland.

2. 1920
A. Population boom in Southern Florida.
B. Further encroachment and transformation of Florida Everglades.

3. 1930
A. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed flood control devices in the wake of the hurricanes of '26 and '28.
B. Around this era, sugar was introduced.

4. 1948
A. Florida Everglades is recognized as a National Park (at least a portion of the original).
B. At least a partial victory for people who wished to preserve the Everglades.

5. 1980
A. 1,400 miles of canals, levees, dikes for drainage, flood control, and water supply devices
B. Canals, levees, etc. diverted water and nutrients into Lake Okeechobee, causing algae blooms.
C. Southeast coast of Florida (Miami area) is further drained for real estate interests.

6. 1989
A. Biologists claim that 200 exotic plant species invaded Everglades.
B. 100,000 acres of Brazilian peppers and 40,000 acres of Melaleuca trees are the largest invasive species.

7. 1991
A. U.S. Sugar Corportation pleads guilty to dumping toxics in Everglades.

Sugar Corporations Role

1. Land Owned off of the southern shores of Lake Okeechobee.
A. 520,000 acres owned.
B. 440,000 used for sugar production.

2. 24% of sugar in U.S. comes from Florida.
3. Florida is the #1 producer of sugar in U.S.
4. Boasts 17,000 jobs.
A. 10,000 men are shipped from the West Indies.
B. Were sent home if quota cut is not met.
C. Workers experience slave like conditions.

Government subsidizes Sugar Corporation

1. U.S. Sugar does not have to pay back certain defaulted loans from the federal government.
2. Artificial price controls controls ensure profits for the Sugar Corporation.
3. Low prices and subsidies reduced imported sugar from the Carribean, which damaged their already struggling economy.
4. U.S. Sugar continues to donate and contribute to both major political parties, ensuring their interests are protected.

Results/Consequences of Sugar Industry on Florida Everglades

1. Because of increased nutrient runoff, cattails replaced saw grass in many areas (as much as 20,000 acres).
2. Over the past 50 years, wading bird population has declined more that 90%.
3. Difficulty in keeping salt water from groundwater aquifers.
4. Release of phosphorus, nitrogen, and possibly mercury when farmed.

Political Shift

1. 1994
A. 29 - 9 vote in Florida Senate to "rescue" the Everglades ($685 million cleanup).
B. Project calls for human engineered marshes 40,000 acres to cleanse water before entering Everglades.
C. Environmentalists claim the project will take too long to complete and growers are not required to pay enough for the funding of the project.
D. Grower are charged $25 - 30/acre
E. U.S. Sugar claims this is the highest growers have to pay anywhere in the U.S.

2. 1998
A. $7.8 billion state-federal initiative to restore Everglades
B. 609 billion gallons/year of fresh water will be drained into the remaining 2 million acres of the Florida Everglades.


1. Over the past 100 years, people have wanted to destroy the Florida Everglades because they believe the marshland dominated by mosquitoes could be turned into "productive" uses.
2. Until recently, however, policies have been enacted in order to save and help rehabilitate the Everglades.
3. With development and the growing population in southern Florida, the Florida Everglades will face many challenges ahead.


Anonymous (1994). Florida Sugar: A Bitter Taste. The Economist, 330, 7851, p.27.

Lee, Jill (1997). Changing Sugarcane. Agriculture Research. December 1997, p.8-10.

Richey, Warren (1997). Changing the Everglades: Who Should Pay? The Christian Science Monitor, 89, 181, Aug. 13, 1997, p. 3-4.

Santaniello, Neil (1998). A New Life for the Everglades. Sun-Sentinal (Ft. Lauderdale), October 11, 1998.

Shapard, Rob (1996). Restoring the Everglades. The American City and County, 111, 12, November 1996, p. 34-36.

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