U.S. Sugar finalizes contract to sell land to Florida

by Eric Schroeder
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CLEWISTON, FLA. — U.S. Sugar Corp. and the South Florida Water Management District (S.F.W.M.D.) have finalized a contract that will partner the two groups for at least the next seven years.

Under the new contract, the S.F.W.M.D. will pay $.134 billion for approximately 180,000 acres. U.S. Sugar will lease the land for seven crops for $50 per acre per year ($9.05 million per year) with no lease payment in year seven. The company also will pay the S.F.W.M.D. $21.5 million for environmental remediation for conditions on the land pursuant to the district’s environmental assessment.

The original contract, first announced on June 24, called for U.S. Sugar to sell all its assets (land, railroad, sugar facility, refinery and the citrus processing facility) to the S.F.W.M.D. for $1.75 billion. In addition, U.S. Sugar would have had the right to farm the land with no lease payments for seven crops.

"This has been a very long and intense process as both parties worked diligently to negotiate a deal within the parameters of the statement of principles set by Governor Crist," said Robert Coker, senior vice-president of public affairs, U.S. Sugar. "However, it became apparent during negotiations that the best interests of U.S. Sugar’s shareholders and the South Florida Water Management District’s environmental goals would be better served by the sale and purchase of real estate, which is what the district needs for its long-term restoration plans."

The contract will be considered for approval by the board of directors of U.S. Sugar on Dec. 8 and by the governing board of the S.F.W.M.D. on Dec. 16.

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