Make us your home page

Purchase of U.S. Sugar's land: Is it a good price?

Is the state's offer of $1.75-billion for all of U.S. Sugar Corp.'s land and assets a good price?

Good question.

Most of the price is for U.S. Sugar's land, about 187,000 farm-rich acres in four South Florida counties. But the company's assets include much more.

There is the antebellum-style, red-brick corporate headquarters in Clewiston. A 5.5-acre, state-of-the-art cane sugar refinery. A sugar mill, warehouses, orange groves, packing plants, railroad lines, tractors, office furniture and computers. The state may not want all these accoutrements, but it's a package deal.

"They're acquiring us lock, stock and barrel," said U.S. Sugar's public relations director, Judy Sanchez. "It's soup to nuts. That's the only way we'd do the deal."

In Hendry County, U.S. Sugar's mill, refinery, packing plant and other equipment are valued by the property appraiser at $617-million. He said he could not provide a value for the company's 63,000 agricultural acres in Hendry.

Next door in Palm Beach County, the property appraiser puts the worth of U.S. Sugar's 100,076 acres at $395-million. Buildings and equipment add another $37-million.

In Glades County, the property appraiser said the company has 21,000 acres. In Gilchrist, U.S. Sugar has 80 acres and a citrus tree replacement farm.

The $1.75-billion price tag agreed upon by the state and U.S. Sugar isn't fixed, and state appraisers will determine the worth of the company before the deal is sealed.

Allen Zech, manager of the agricultural department for the Palm Beach appraiser, thinks the price is too high, especially because much of U.S. Sugar's property is muck land, inaccessible in the rainy season and not adaptable to many other forms of agriculture.

"If you figure the price is for the acreage, it's $9,000 or $10,000 an acre, and I think it should be more like $3,500 to $5,000 an acre. I don't know why anyone in their right mind would pay that much," Zech said.

Jeff Danter, director of Florida's Nature Conservancy office, sees it another way. Danter believes the U.S. Sugar land provides a huge, vital link that could reduce the cost of the multibillion-dollar state and federal effort to restore the Everglades, saving an ecosystem and protecting the water supply for South Florida.

"It could lower the cost of what else is going on there, and provide a benefit for both people and nature,'' Danter said. "In that case, the price could be a real bargain."

Purchase of U.S. Sugar's land: Is it a good price? 06/24/08 [Last modified: Friday, June 27, 2008 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  3. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst


    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  4. Three-hour police standoff ends, thanks to a cigarette


    TAMPA — A man threatening to harm himself was arrested by Tampa police on Tuesday after a three-hour standoff.

  5. Another Hollywood nursing home resident dies. It's the 9th in post-Irma tragedy.

    State Roundup

    The Broward County Medical Examiner's office is investigating another death of a resident of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills — the ninth blamed on the failure of a cooling system that became a stifling deathtrap three days after Irma hit.

    Carlos Canal, pictured at 47 years old, came to Miami from Cuba in 1960. Above is his citizenship photo. [Courtesy of Lily Schwartz]