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U.S. Sugar Corporation, is a privately owned agricultural business based in Clewiston, Florida. The company farms over 230,000 acres of land in the counties of Hendry, Glades and Palm Beach. It is the largest producer of sugar cane in the United States by volume, producing over 700,000 tonnes per year. The company is also a large producer of refined sugar, sweet corn and oranges.
Headquarters of U.S. Sugar in Clewiston, Florida
|Privately held corporation|
|Predecessor||Southern Sugar Corporation|
|Founder||Charles Stewart Mott|
|William S. White (Chairman)|
Robert Buker (CEO)
|Subsidiaries||Southern Gardens Citrus|
U.S. Sugar is considered in South Florida along with Florida Crystals and the 54-member Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida as Big Sugar. The company is one of the largest job providers in the Glades region of Florida, employing more than 2,500.
In 1931, industrialist and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott purchased assets near Clewiston, Florida from a 1920s bankrupt sugarcane company, Southern Sugar Company, to form the United States Sugar Corporation. In the 1940s, U.S. Sugar was charged with slavery violation.
Mott later transferred shares to his Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. In 1969 with a law passed limiting private family foundations could hold of a corporation, the foundation gave a large number of shares to the Mott Children's Health Center, a Flint charitable medical organization founded in 1939, to be below the 35% limit.
In 1962, the company opened the Bryant Sugar House, which at the time was the largest and most advanced sugarcane processing mill in the world. The mill had a capacity of 5,000 tons of sugarcane per day.
After C.S. Mott died in 1973, C.S. Harding Mott, his son, took over as chairman of the corporation. With sugar at 60 cents a pound in the 1970s and purchasers switching to corn syrup, the company expanded into other areas of farming including cattle, citrus and vegetables. In 1980, U.S. acquired South Bay Growers. South Bay Growers produced 13% of the US's leafy vegetables growing lettuce, celery and others. In late 1985, U.S. Sugar began planting orange trees. In 1983, the company formed an Employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in an attempt to go private. U.S. Sugar borrowed millions in long-term debt to create the ESOP. Some shareholders did not sell out believing the price per share to be too low triggering a class action law suit.
The ESOP and Mott group of owners in October 1987 offered $80 per share for the other 110,000 voting shares held by 500 public shareholders. This took the company private and reduced its reporting costs.
Most of South Bay Growers was closed down on September 4, 1994 after four out of five prior years of losses including 10 million in 1994. South Bay's salad processing plant with customers like McDonald's and Burger King and 146 employees would continue to operate while seeking new ownership.
Big sugar moved in the early 1990s to mechanical cane harvesters. The displaced cane field workers filed a class action lawsuit in which the company paid $5 million plus in 1998. In 2004, U.S. Sugar closed a mill and laid off workers. Its Bryant mill was closed in 2007.
In February 2008, the corporation, CEO Robert Buker, Chairman William S. White and his family and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation were sued by employees claiming that they were not getting full value for the ESOP stock given two bids for the company stock for amounts more than ESOP redemption were offered by outside parties. Employees alleged that the Gaylor Lawrence family agro-conglomerate offered $293 per share for the company twice, once in August 2005 and in January 2007. Supposedly US Sugar president was terminated and paid hush money to hide the offer. At the time, share redemption was from $193 to $200.
On 24 June 2008, Florida's Governor, Charlie Crist, announced the state was in negotiations to buy 187,000 acres (760 km2) of land and all of its manufacturing and production facilities for an estimated $1.7 billion from the company as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Under the proposals, the company would continue to farm the land for the next six years and convert the land back to its original natural marshland state. In November 2008, the agreement was revised to offer $1.34 billion, allowing sugar mills in Clewiston to remain in production. Critics of the revised plan say that it ensures sugarcane will be grown in the Everglades for at least another decade.
U.S. Sugar powers its facilities with renewable resources – the residual sugarcane fiber after juice is extracted, known as bagasse. Bagasse is a clean, fibrous biofuel that results from the sugarcane extraction process. Every ton of bagasse powers the equivalent of 50 gallons of fuel oil.
A boiler produces steam during the milling process by burning bagasse. Steam is co-generated into electricity on-site. In essence, each year's cane crop provides power for both the sugar factory and U.S. Sugar's refinery operations.
U.S. Sugar's farmers have been integral to the success of sending cleaner water to the Everglades since 1994. The company, along with other Glades-area farmers, worked with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to develop soil and water cleansing techniques called best management practices (BMPs). These techniques include holding farm runoff on company property, laser leveling fields, and the growth of foliage along drainage canals bordering farms to help absorb nutrients. The BMP program has helped to yield tremendous success. According to the South Florida Management District, in 2017, Everglades Agricultural Area farmers achieved a 70 percent annual reduction in phosphorus – nearly three times higher than the 25 percent required by the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Additionally, more than 95 percent of the Everglades is meeting the stringent 10 parts per billion clean water standard for phosphorus.
Despite claims made by environmental activists over air quality, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Glades communities such as Clewiston enjoy some of the cleanest air quality in the state of Florida. In its rankings, the foundation lists Hendry County in the lower third of counties experiencing the worst incidences of particulate matter in the air.
According to the Florida Sugarcane League, sugarcane farming has a $3.2 billion impact and supports more than 12,500 jobs. With more than 2,500 employees, U.S. Sugar is one of the "largest agribusiness employers in the Everglades region."
- Funcheon, Deirdra (March 1, 2016). "Mott Foundation Gives Environmental Grants While Destroying the Environment, Critics Say". New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Mickle, Bryn (July 3, 2008). "Sale of U.S. Sugar land near Florida Everglades could mean millions to local charities; C.S. Mott Foundation, Mott Children's Health Center and Community Foundation of Greater Flint all could benefit". Flint Journal. MLive.com. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Blum, Vanessa (February 1, 2008). "Workers, retirees sue U.S. Sugar". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- "U.S. Sugar Corp. (About)". U.S. Sugar Corp. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- Clary, Mike (April 25, 2004). "A Bittersweet Tale". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
- Durkin, Barbara J.; Altaner, David (May 12, 1989). "C.S. Harding Mott, Lead U.S. Sugar Corp". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Walsh, Mary Williams (May 29, 2008). "Ostensibly Independent, a Charity Is U.S. Sugar's Swing-Vote Shareholder". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 31, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- McCabe, Robert (July 7, 1994). "South Bay Growers To Close". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Pounds, Marcia H. (October 10, 1987). "U.s. Sugar Wants To Go Private". Sun Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
- Schor, Elana (2008-06-24). "Florida to buy 187,000 farmland acres to preserve Everglades". Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- Damien Cave; John Holusha (2008-06-24). "Florida to Buy Sugar Maker in Bid to Restore Everglades". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- Cave, Damien (November 12, 2008). "Everglades Deal Shrinks to Sale of Land, Not Assets", The New York Times, p. 16.
- Bussey, Jane, Morgan, Curtis (November 16, 2008). "Land deal could lift U.S. Sugar's sagging fortunes: Is it a buyout or a bailout? Either way, a pending deal to sell land to the state for Everglades restoration could reverse Big Sugar's flagging finances", The Miami Herald (Florida).
- "U.S. Sugar Corp. (Company History)". U.S. Sugar Corp. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- "U.S. Sugar Corp. (Environmental Stewardship)". U.S. Sugar Corp. Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- 2017 County health rankings
- Florida Sugarcane League
- U.S. Sugar