Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee could cost the Florida economy 4,148 jobs and $695 million a year, according to a new report from conservative think tank James Madison Institute.
The report, titled “$ticker $hock,” estimates the land buy would have a direct negative impact of $345 million and 1,915 jobs lost, with an additional $350 million and 2,233 jobs lost indirectly.
Negron’s plan, found in SB 10, would have the state purchase 60,000 acres of mainly agricultural land to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges by building a reservoir. The plan would cost the state $1.2 billion.
The plan is most heavily opposed by U.S. Sugar, which owns most of the land in question. Since Negron made the issue a priority, the company has downplayed the role its operations play in the discharges, and offering up its own studies showing that the allegations are not supported by science.
The JMI estimate includes a statewide loss of nearly $110 million in household income and $42 million in tax revenues for federal, state and local governments.
About 45 percent of the job losses would happen in Palm Beach and Hendry counties, while the same counties would absorb more nearly 60 percent of the economic dip.
The towns surrounding the land buy area – Belle Glade, South Bay, Clewiston and Pahokee – would be the hardest hit.
The report emphasized the importance of agriculture as one of the “Big Three” economic drivers in the state while also saying that protecting “our state’s most cherished natural treasure, the Everglades, is vital to Floridians.”
The group concluded that this and a JMI previous study “clearly illustrate that using taxpayer dollars to declare eminent domain on 60,000 acres of agricultural land south of Lake Okeechobee would not only fail to help address the challenges present, but would in fact have devastating effects on the economies of the local area, the communities that rely on the land for their livelihood, and the state of Florida.”