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Environmentalists Fight For Higher Taxes On Sugar Producers

Josh Hallett
Flickr / Creative Commons

Environmental activists want sugar growers in Florida to pay more taxes to clean up nutrient runoff, which has been flowing in to the Everglades for years.

A change to Florida’s Constitution in the 1990s requires sugar cane growers to pay $25 an acre in taxes every year.

A bill filed by Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) would keep the amount the same.

He said pollutants from sugar farms aren’t as high as they once were and sugar producers shouldn’t be required to pay out more money.

“Personally, I think it is a reasonable measure to extend the $25 an acre out to the year 2025,” Caldwell said.

However, environmentalists want growers to pay more, rather than putting the burden on taxpayers who are set to pay $1.4 billion.

Audubon Society of Florida Director Eric Draper said sugar producers are polluting more than they are paying.

“Currently the sugar cane farmers are only paying $11 million a year. Well, anyone can do the math to say, ‘well, $11 million—that doesn’t even pay the interest on a billion dollars,” Draper said. “It doesn’t even come close.”

Draper said sugar farming is still contributing the most pollutants to water in the Everglades.

Ashley Lopez is a reporter forWGCUNews. A native of Miami, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a journalism degree.