Rival company seeks part in land deal for Everglades

If you can't beat them, buy them.

That sums up the emerging dual strategy of Florida Crystals, the most formidable foe of Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial land deal with rival grower U.S. Sugar to buy 180,000 acres of sugar fields and citrus groves that environmentalists say are key to resolving the Everglades' water supply and pollution problems.

At the same time Florida Crystals lobbyists and lawyers are working to derail the $1.34 billion proposal, Florida Crystals is quietly stepping up negotiations to cut itself in. Florida's two largest sugar growers acknowledged they met last week in Clewiston to explore a deal for U.S. Sugar's high-tech mill and other assests. Crystals executives and lobbyists also have discussed land swaps with the Crist administration and pressed for contract revisions if Crystals acquires the mill, possibly including land leases that could extend for decades.

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