Big Sugar has at least 48 lobbyists in Tallahassee; how many do YOU have?

Ever wonder why Big Sugar so often gets its way when it comes to Florida water policy?

Part of the answer lies in the number of lobbyists the industry pays to roam the halls of the capitol, sweet-talking legislators.

While lobbyists for clean-water are in comparably short supply — because, frankly, our pockets aren’t so deep — Big Sugar doesn’t have that problem. Indeed, according to state lobbying records, the industry employs at least 48 lobbyists in Tallahassee, including some big names, insiders with lots of experience in Florida politics — and clout to spare.

Those 48 lobbyists break down as follows:

U.S. Sugar — 21 lobbyists, including Brian Ballard, perhaps the most influential lobbyist in Florida and, under former President Trump, a powerhouse in Washington D.C., as well.

Also lobbying for U.S. Sugar this year: Steve Crisafulli, former Speaker of the state House of Representatives; Mike Haridopolos, former President of the Florida Senate; Eric Edwards, U.S. Sugar’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs (and successor to the legendary Bob Coker); and several principals/managing partners for some of Tallahassee’s most powerful lobbying firms.

That’s more heavy hitters than the legendary ‘27 Yankees of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Florida Crystals — 21 lobbyists, including Ken Pruitt, former President of the Florida Senate; Davis Bean, Partner at The Fiorentino Group and nephew of U.S. Rep. and former Florida Sen. Aaron Bean; and several principals/managing partners for top Tallahassee lobbying groups.

Florida Sugar Cane League — one lobbyist, Ernie Barnett, Executive Director of the Florida Land Council and one-time Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District.

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida — one lobbyist

Then there’s South Central Florida Express Inc., created by U.S. Sugar in 1994 and used (in part) to transport sugar cane along its 170-mile network of tracks. The company employs a total of 20 lobbyists, 16 who also lobby for U.S. Sugar, four who don’t.

With this army of lobbyists bending legislators’ ears and arms, how could the industry NOT consistently run the table?

Now, this isn’t unusual when it comes to the power players in Tallahassee. Florida Power and Light has 29 lobbyists; the “sprawl” industry retains dozens.

But it’s yet another example of how the deck is stacked against clean water and conservation in general. After all, you don’t have any lobbyists in Tallahassee. All you’ve got is your vote, and your voice.

You want change — you’re going to have to use both.

Sugar lobbyists, Jan. 2024

United States Sugar Corporation

Brian D. Ballard

Gregory K. Black

David Browning

Bradley S. Burleson

Steve Crisafulli

Charles F. Dudley

Stephen D. Dyal

Eric Edwards

Mercer Fearington Jr.

Cory Guzzo

Mike Haridopolos

Richard J. Heffley

Kelly W. Horton

Frank P. Mayernick Jr.

Tracy Hogan Mayernick

Seth D. McKeel Jr.

Kirk Pepper

Sydney P. Ridley

James C. (Clark) Smith

Screven H. Watson

Derek A. Whitis

Florida Crystals Corporation

Davis Bean

Anita Berry

Michael G. Cantens

Gaston Cantens

Jeffrey M. Johnston

Lee M. Killinger

Amanda Stewart

Will Rodriguez

Bethany McAlister

Joseph G. Mobley

Andrea Tovar

Albert Balido

Robert M Blair

Jacqueline A. Corcoran

Edgar G. Fernandez

Martin Fiorentino Jr.

Meghan Hoza Hodde

Ken Pruitt

Mark Timothy Pruitt

William D. Rubin

Heather L. Turnbull

Florida Sugar Cane League

Ernie Barnett

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida

Gary K. Hunter

South Central Florida Express, Inc

David W. Childs

Eileen H. Stuart

Brady J. Benford

Andrew Liebert