By MICHAEL BALSAMO
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block a major U.S. sugar manufacturer from acquiring its rival, clearing the way for the acquisition to proceed. The ruling was handed down Friday by a federal judge in Wilmington, Delaware. It comes months after the Justice Department sued to try to halt the deal between U.S. Sugar and Imperial Sugar Company, one of the largest sugar refiners in the nation. The government had argued that allowing the acquisition to go through would be harmful to consumers and anticompetitive. U.S. Sugar has argued that the acquisition will increase production and distribution of refined sugar and provide a more secure supply.