Clewiston, FL — April 29, 2011 — U.S. Sugar Corporation, celebrating its 80th Anniversary, once again led the Florida sugar industry in production and efficiency despite devastating freeze damage to the sugarcane crop for the second consecutive year. In 2010-2011, the company harvested 5.63 million tons of sugarcane which yielded approximately 620,000 tons of raw sugar and 38 million gallons of molasses.
“While we have lost production, it is satisfying to note that all the investments and improvements implemented over the last few years have resulted in our taking far less of a hit due to weather impacts than others in the industry,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs.
Sanchez said Florida’s sugarcane crop suffered 12 different freeze events below 28 degrees between January and December 2010, reducing both sugarcane tonnage and sugar yield. Even though U.S. Sugar started harvesting weeks earlier and ran later than everyone else, the Company harvested 100% of its crop and reported an estimated 8.3% decrease in sugar production compared to last year while the rest of the Florida industry reported 13%-20% decreases.
“U.S. Sugar’s investments in superior infrastructure and technology, its 24-hour harvest program, efficient private railroad transportation system and state-of-the-art sugar manufacturing facility, along with the best people in the industry, enable our business to succeed even under difficult conditions,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the Clewiston Sugar Factory ran extremely well all year and its refinery, currently undergoing a 10% expansion, again is on a potentially record-breaking pace. In addition to refining 100% of the Company’s raw sugar production, the Clewiston Refinery can import foreign raw sugar and refine it profitably. That sugar currently is being imported through the Port of Palm Beach.
Over the past 80 years of operation, U.S. Sugar has produced and processed 500 billion pounds of sugarcane, produced 51.3 billion pounds of raw cane sugar, produced 12.6 billion pounds of refined granulated sugar, 1.3 billion gallons of molasses and more than 3 million MW hours of energy.
The United States Sugar Corporation came into being during the Great Depression, at a time when the little southern town of Clewiston was little more than a dot on the map near the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee in South Florida.
On April 29, 1931, automotive pioneer, industrialist, and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott transformed the bankrupt old Southern Sugar Company into United States Sugar Corporation, acquiring all its lands, sugar mill, and other assets. The Southern Sugar Company had purchased the mill and remnant equipment of the defunct Pennsylvania Sugar Company (Pennsuco) constructed in Hialeah, Florida and operated by Ernest “Cap” Graham, father of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham.
Investing much of his own capital, Mott revived the company and convinced other investors and creditors that the dream of growing sugar in the rich muck soils around Lake Okeechobee was not only possible, but profitable.
Mott had already earned a reputation as one of the top industrial executives and most astute businessmen in the United States. He had taken a small family business that produced wire bicycle wheels and parlayed it into major stock ownership of General Motors. Although a successful businessman, he maintained a keen interest in the land and farming, a throwback to his farming ancestors who came to this country in 1645 and settled on the soil. Charles Stewart Mott, with a unique blend of experience, knowledge, and drive, was to lead U.S. Sugar Corporation to its position as one of the country's most successful agricultural operations.
Overcoming drainage problems and developing suitable varieties of sugarcane for Florida were the top priorities. The Company brought in experts in cane growing and production from Louisiana, Cuba, and the West Indies. Sugar production increased, the Company grew, and by 1941, there was indeed a profitable Florida sugar industry.
The key to the continued growth and future of the Company was the Clewiston Sugar House. When Southern Sugar opened it in 1929, it could process 1500 tons of cane per day -- with future expansion built into the design. Over the years, it was altered, adapted and enlarged. Time and time again, it established records as the most efficient single-tandem mill in the world, far superior to many newer mills. And although there were many changes, the fundamental process remained the same.
In 1959, the Company increased its milling operations with the construction of an additional raw factory on the southeastern rim of Lake Okeechobee. The Bryant Sugar House, opened in 1962, would be the world's most modern. Like its sister mill at Clewiston, Bryant was built with expansion in mind. Its 5,000 tons per day capacity would be increased again and again.
As others recognized the potential of the Lake area, new sugarcane operations began to arrive. The industry pioneered by Charles Stewart Mott was on the verge of dramatic growth. As Florida's sugar industry expanded in order to replace sugar once imported from Cuba, the Company’s research and technology helped make this greatly increased production and milling possible.
By the early 80’s, Florida had become the largest sugar-producing state in the country. U.S. Sugar Corporation was the largest sugar producer in the state. Setting the Company apart from other area sugar operations were its internal transportation system, a railroad with over 120 miles of track and 1100 railcars linking the sugarcane fields with the mills, and its extensive research facility that bred more than 125,000 new varieties each year. Company-funded research ranks among industry leaders in integrated pest management, global positioning technology, and cellular biology research.
As the Company grew, it diversified into cattle, vegetables, and other crops (South Bay Growers, including 13,000 acres of land and an existing Corrulite container business was acquired in 1980), but sugar would remain the heart of the Company's current and future plans.
Another new and exciting era for U.S. Sugar was beginning. In the mid 80's, employees became the largest shareholders in the Company through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Today the Company is primarily owned by its employees and charitable foundations set up by Mr. Mott -- The C.S. Mott Foundation and The Mott Children's Health Center.
In 1985, the decision was made to convert the Company’s cattle operation into citrus groves. Over 29,000 acres were planted in orange trees and designs for the first new citrus processing plant built in Florida in over two decades were drawn. In 2002, Southern Gardens purchased the 3762-acre Alcoma Groves adjacent to its own Dunwody Grove, bringing total citrus acreage to over 32,000 grove acres.
Through the dedication and hard work of management and its employee-owners, U.S. Sugar Corporation continued to expand and progress. In January 1994, Southern Gardens Citrus Processing began operations. The $100+ million facility is one of the most efficient and environmentally-friendly juice processing plants in the world. Following Company tradition, the plant was built with the infrastructure to triple its capacity. In fact, Phase II construction was completed in 1996 and enabled the plant to process more than 19 million boxes of fruit per season. The citrus plant now has 56 one-million-gallon aseptic storage tanks for not-from-concentrate orange juice. Ultimately, the plant will process over 30 million boxes of fruit, producing 180 million gallons of juice annually.
In October 1998, U.S. Sugar Corporation officially opened its new cane sugar refinery. This facility is the first fully-integrated cane sugar refinery in the nation. The refinery had an initial capacity to produce 540,000 tons per year. As tradition dictates, the refinery was built with the infrastructure to expand rapidly and efficiently. The first incremental expansion was completed in 2002, taking capacity to over 600,000 tons a year. Also, the decision was made to add liquid sugar production to the refinery, and this $2.5 million addition was completed in November, 2002. Additional expansion the following years allowed U.S. Sugar to refine its total sugar production with another 10% expansion underway today. The 5.5-acre, 300,000 sq. ft. facility includes processing, packaging, and warehousing, servicing both consumer /retail markets and bulk industrial customers. The refinery enables U.S. Sugar to take the sugar process full circle, from cane field to consumer.
Today, U.S. Sugar Corporation is one of the country’s largest privately held agricultural firms. The Company farms 180,000 acres of the most productive farmland in the United States. In 2008, its newly consolidated and automated milling and refining facility at Clewiston became the world’s largest vertically integrated sugar cane milling and refining operation -- capable of processing up to 42,000 tons of sugarcane per day and producing ~700,000 tons of sugar per year. In addition to sugar and citrus, the Company also owns a short-line railroad – the South Central Florida Express.
As stewards of this land, U.S. Sugar has pioneered and encouraged the implementation of special land and water management systems, called Best Management Practices, which help the environment. We are proud partners in ongoing Everglades restoration efforts.
In 2010, the State acquired ~27,000 acres of U.S. Sugar property (primarily citrus land) as part of its River of Grass restoration initiative to provide additional water treatment and water storage.
At U.S. Sugar, the traditional farming values are successfully combined with modern technology so that the result is farming that is compatible with the environment and with the economic realities of the next century. As the vision of Charles Stewart Mott continues to unfold, United States Sugar Corporation is positioned to meet the challenges of the future with the strength of the past.