Louisiana Sugar Producers Geaux Sustainable

In south Louisiana, the sugarcane grows high and the heritage of the sugarcane industry runs deep.

For nearly 130 years, generations of Louisiana sugar workers have refined raw sugar at the Louisiana Sugar Refining (LSR) refinery in Gramercy, Louisiana.

The American Sugar Alliance recently spoke to Larry Faucheux, CEO of LSR, about the contributions that the LSR refinery have made to a strong Louisiana and how LSR is moving its sustainability practices forward. This is the latest video in our ongoing series to document the many ways that sugar farmers and workers across the country produce #SugarSustainably.

The story of the sugar being refined at the LSR refinery starts on the farm. Approximately 800 Louisiana sugarcane farmers grow the sugarcane crops that are then turned into raw sugar at eight mills. These mills send their raw sugar to the LSR refinery, which produces the crystalized white sugar that most people are familiar with.

A lot of sugar, in fact. The LSR refinery produces six million pounds of sugar a day.

It’s truly a local business. All of the sugarcane farmers that supply the LSR refinery grow their crops within a 110-mile radius of the refinery. Most of the 400 refinery workers live within 10 miles of the refinery – and for many, their family histories are intertwined with the refinery’s history.

“The attraction for me to this refinery has always been the heritage of it,” Faucheux says. “Many people who work here have third, fourth and fifth generation heritage.”

Faucheux is the third generation in his family to work in the refinery.

Knowing the role that the refinery plays in supporting local families and Louisiana’s economy has driven LSR to continue its investment in sustainable practices.

“LSR’s view of sustainability is one of three different pillars that need to be followed. They include an economic pillar, an environmental pillar and a social pillar,” Faucheux explained.

LSR has worked with third-party organizations to certify its sustainability practices. It partnered with the global organization Sedex to ensure the refinery was fulfilling sustainable requirements. At the farm level, LSR uses a program called the SAI Platform to measure sustainability in the field.

“LSR truly believes that in order for us to be sustainable there should be a good supply chain in place that takes it from the plant itself in the field all the way to the customer and therefore we have worked very hard in both directions. We sit between the customer and that plant that is in the field,” Faucheux said.

With the efforts that the LSR refinery has made to further improve its environmental practices, strengthen its economic impact and support the strong social fabric of Louisiana’s communities, we have no doubt that the refinery will still be producing sugar sustainably in another 130 years.

Statement on the nomination of Robert Bonnie

Statement from the American Sugar Alliance on the nomination of Robert Bonnie as Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

“U.S. sugar farmers and workers rely on the Farm Bill programs administered by USDA’s FPAC mission area to continue producing safe, reliable, and quality supplies of American sugar. Robert Bonnie knows how important commodity loans, crop insurance, and conservation practice cost-share are to U.S. farmers.  And he also knows from his previous tenure as Under Secretary how important the career staff are at USDA who implement the Farm Bill.  Those programs have allowed American sugarcane and sugarbeet farmers to sustainably produce 16% more sugar on 11% less land over the past 20 years while using fewer inputs.  We support Mr. Bonnie’s nomination and look forward to continuing to work with him and his staff to find commonsense solutions to today’s issues while supporting our famers and processors.”

Statement on the Growing Climate Solutions Act

Statement from the American Sugar Alliance in support of the reintroduction of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act:

“America’s sugar farmers are dedicated to advancing climate-smart policies and support efforts to dismantle technical barriers that impede the ability for farmers to voluntarily participate in carbon markets. The bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act is an important step forward and the American Sugar Alliance applauds its reintroduction. We appreciate Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) for their work with Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to improve this legislation and ensure it helps rural America further achieve its climate goals.

“A number of farmer-friendly changes have been added to the Growing Climate Solutions Act to achieve funding needs without reopening the Farm Bill or otherwise affecting the existing funding of farm and conservation programs. Importantly, this legislation has already garnered support from a bipartisan group of senators who represent a broad cross-section of American agriculture.”

Spring is Here, Bringing Sugar Forecasts

Column authored by Dr. Robert Johansson, Associate Director of Economics and Policy Analysis at the American Sugar Alliance.

The vernal equinox, aka spring equinox, came and went Saturday, March 20, marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

As all good aggies know, that means the economists at the Food and Agricultural Policy Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri just published their new 10-year baseline for agricultural production and programs.

That baseline is adjusted by University of Missouri economists to reflect more recent 2021 prices and economic conditions compared to the earlier USDA’s baseline published in part in November and in full in February.

From a sugar perspective, the equinox also marks the tail end of the sugarcane harvest (with some acres left to harvest yet in Florida) and the beginning of sugarbeet planting in 10 states and the sugarbeet harvest in southern California. Taking stock:

  • we expect a record sugarcane harvest at 4.24 million tons in 2020/21, despite the multitude of tropical storms battering Gulf Coast shores last year; and
  • we could see a record year in 2021/22 for sugarbeets, currently forecast by FAPRI at more than 5.13 million tons.

​With the larger than expected 2020/21 production for both beet and cane along with imports mandated by trade agreements, the current USDA forecast projects a more than adequate supply of sugar to fulfill our nation’s needs.

Looking forward, FAPRI expects overall sugar demand to grow by more than 1.3 million tons over the next 10 years. That demand growth is roughly twice the expected growth in domestic production, but U.S. sugar policy gives 41 countries, most of them developing nations, preferential access to our market to ensure that consumers always stay stocked with sugar. In fact, the U.S. is the third largest sugar importer in the world. That should keep domestic prices at roughly the same levels over the next 10 years.

While FAPRI does not explicitly discuss government program costs for sugar, USDA projects a sugar program cost of $0 for taxpayers over the next 10 years.

However, with any good economic forecast there are both positives and negatives. An area worth keeping an eye on is rising costs of production. Both FAPRI and USDA expect agricultural costs of production to continue to increase over the next 10 years. FAPRI has costs rising by 19% and USDA has costs rising by 12% over the baseline period. For producers in all sectors, who face flat prices and rising costs of production, it is likely we’ll see additional borrowing as margins get squeezed. And, indeed, FAPRI projects overall debt-to-asset ratios creeping up to 15.6% by 2030 (which would be the highest since 1991 if realized).

In the face of rising input costs and flat prices, it is critical that Congress continue to back a strong no-cost sugar policy in order to support an essential domestic industry and maintain a safe and reliable supply of quality sugar.

Sugar Producers Applaud Recent Comments by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai

Newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai recently signaled strong support for America’s sugar producers and affirmed her commitment to America’s no-cost sugar policy, sending cheers throughout sugar country.

In written comments submitted to the Senate Finance Committee following her confirmation hearing, Tai responded to inquiries from several senators asking how she would handle trade issues pertaining to sugar, considering the heavily subsidized nature of the global sugar market.

“Any reforms I pursue regarding the global sugar market will be consistent with maintaining the current no-cost U.S. sugar policy,” Tai stated in response to a question from Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) asking how she would approach reforming the distorted global market.

In response to a follow-up question from Senator Barrasso about how to utilize the World Trade Organization (WTO) to secure a multilateral approach to sugar reform, Tai stated that updates to the WTO rules would be needed to effectively target foreign subsidization.

“WTO rules need to be updated to reflect long-standing agricultural issues that have not been rectified under the WTO’s current construction. I will work with like-minded partners to ensure that any new rules are consistent with U.S. domestic sugar goals,” Tai wrote.

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) asked Tai about Brazil’s recent attempts to trade increased access to its market for certain commodities in exchange for allowing Brazil to send more subsidized sugar to our shores. Tai firmly stated that under her watch, she will not tolerate other nations trying to pit American agriculture against itself.

“In my testimony, I emphasized that no U.S. stakeholder should be prioritized over another during trade negotiations,” Tai said. “If confirmed, I commit to ensuring that no new agricultural market access comes at the expense of other agricultural stakeholders.”

These comments are bad news for mega-subsidizer Brazil, which benefits from direct and indirect subsidies valued at an estimated $2.5 billion per year to prop up its sugar industry – and who has long hoped to flood our market with its subsidized sugar. In fact, widespread production- and trade-distorting foreign subsidies, including from top offenders Brazil, India, and Thailand, have led to rampant overproduction and sugar prices below the costs of production.

Tai also stated that “U.S. trade policy must benefit domestic agricultural producers and provide consumers and food manufacturers with a safe and secure domestic food supply. I will make this a central pillar of any agricultural trade policy I pursue.”

Tai’s commitment to supporting domestic agricultural producers and assurance that sugar access won’t be unilaterally traded away in future trade negotiations is welcome news for America’s sugar farmers and workers.

That’s because not only do America’s sugar producers keep America supplied with an essential ingredient, they also support 142,000 jobs in 22 states and generate $20 billion in annual economic activity. Without a strong U.S. sugar policy, the dysfunctional and heavily subsidized world sugar market would jeopardize the livelihoods of American sugar producers and the American consumers and small businesses who depend on them.

America’s sugar farmers and workers once again congratulate Ambassador Tai on her confirmation as the U.S. Trade Representative. We look forward to partnering with Tai to advance our shared goals of worker-centered trade policies that acknowledge the importance of good-paying American jobs and the need for fair trade rules reflective of global trading realities.

Statement on the Confirmation of Katherine Tai

Statement from the American Sugar Alliance on the confirmation of Ambassador Katherine Tai as the U.S. Trade Representative:

“America’s sugar farmers and workers congratulate Ambassador Tai on her confirmation as the U.S. Trade Representative. We look forward to partnering with Ambassador Tai to advance our shared goals of worker-centered trade policies that acknowledge the importance of good-paying American jobs and the need for fair trade rules reflective of global trading realities. We encourage Ambassador Tai and her talented team at USTR to strive to create a rational global sugar market, one devoid of today’s widespread production- and trade-distorting foreign subsidies.”

Zero Dollars

America’s sugar policy is designed to cost taxpayers nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

That seems like a pretty sweet deal. But how exactly does U.S. sugar policy work? It’s simple:

  1. The U.S. is the 5th largest producer and 3rd largest importer in the world.
  2. Existing trade deals provide preferential access to 41 countries, with the U.S. importing as much as 1/3 of consumption needs in recent years.
  3. The Farm Bill authorizes USDA to offer loans to domestic producers to provide for orderly marketing.
  4. Because loans are repaid with interest and there are no subsidy checks, the policy operates at $0 cost to taxpayers.
  5. If too much sugar is produced, U.S. producers store the excess at their own expense.
  6. If more sugar is needed, additional sugar can be quickly imported.

That policy gives sugar producers stability and predictability, allowing farmers and workers to keep America supplied with a reliable supply of high-quality sugar.

Our efficient industry, backed by a strong and flexible sugar policy, helped us respond to the challenges of 2020. To ensure store shelves stayed stocked during the first six months of the pandemic, sugar producers quickly shifted 90,000 tons of sugar from commercial outlets to consumer packaging. That means sugar producers redirected the equivalent of 45,000,000 four-pound sugar bags to store shelves in order to keep your pantry stocked.

Americans find sugar to be affordable, too, with a recent survey finding that 63 percent of Americans believe sugar is not expensive at all. A pound of sugar today costs about $0.65 – that’s down about 20 percent over the past 40 years when accounting for inflation.

Importantly, without a strong sugar policy, American sugar farmers and workers would be facing competition from a massively distorted global sugar market wrecked by foreign subsidies. While the countries below are among the worst offenders, market-disrupting policies are commonplace in most countries around the world.

On the global market, sugar prices barely cover half the average cost of producing sugar – a result of over-production and trade-distorting subsidies. Mega-subsidizers like Brazil, Thailand, and India flood and distort the world market with their surplus sugar using government subsidies and policies – in some cases in apparent violation of international trade obligations.

That’s why Congress has repeatedly rebuffed attempts to dismantle America’s no-cost sugar policy, most recently by an overwhelming 141-vote margin in the House.

All this at no cost to taxpayers? Now that’s smart policy.

Statement on Confirmation of Secretary Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

Statement from the American Sugar Alliance on the confirmation of Secretary Tom Vilsack as the Secretary of Agriculture:

“America’s sugar farmers and workers extend their heartfelt congratulations to Secretary Tom Vilsack on his confirmation as the Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary Vilsack’s support for smart farm and trade policies will allow sugar producers to continue investing in sustainable farm practices, efficient sugar production and strong communities, while keeping America supplied with an essential ingredient. America’s no-cost sugar policy is integral to this success story and we look forward to partnering with Secretary Vilsack and his team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue building a brighter future for American agriculture.”

Meet America’s Sugar Producers

Growing up, fourth-generation farmer Makelle Pinsonat rode in the tractor alongside her parents in the sugarcane fields of Louisiana. Now, Makelle is raising her own family on the farm.

“It’s in your blood. It’s in your heart,” Makelle says. “It’s a privilege to be able to say, ‘I’m a United States sugarcane farmer.’”

Across the country, Montana farmer Ervin Schlemmer is a fourth-generation sugarbeet farmer who cherishes the time spent working as a family.

“It’s something that puts a good feeling right here in my heart to know that’s what we are all about,” Ervin says.

Makelle and Ervin are two of the 11,000 farmers and farm families who grow sugarcane and sugarbeets across the country and whose stories are featured on the brand-new website: SugarAlliance.org. Those farmers – many of them multi-generational farmers, whose families have been farming the same land for more than 100 years – produce about nine million tons of sugar a year on two million acres.

Those crops are then made into high-quality sugar by America’s skilled sugar workers and efficiently distributed to consumers and food manufacturers across the country. In total, America’s sugar industry supports 142,000 jobs and adds $20 billion to the U.S. economy while keeping America supplied with an essential ingredient. And sugar production is increasingly sustainable – with current U.S. production up 16 percent over the past 20 years while using 11 percent less land.

It’s incredible to see the coast-to-coast reach of America’s sugar producers.

None of this would be possible without America’s no-cost sugar policy. This policy supports America’s family farmers like Makelle and Ervin and gives them the stability to efficiently meet our nation’s sugar needs.

Research in Louisiana Supports Sustainable Sugarcane Production

America’s sugar producers are constantly working to develop new technologies to further our mission to produce sugar, sustainably. These advances in technology not only help protect the environment, they also help sugar growers increase efficiencies and stay profitable.

Louisiana State University (LSU) is at the forefront of sustainable sugarcane production. Dr. Kenneth Gravois is a sugarcane specialist at the LSU AgCenter who works to improve sugarcane varieties. As the son and grandson of farmers, making a difference in an industry that is at the heart of his community is a personal mission, as well.

The goal of Dr. Gravois’ research is to increase yields with varieties that provide more tons of cane per acre or higher sucrose levels. Or protect yields with varieties that are disease and insect resistant.

“We are spraying a whole lot less insecticide today than we were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago,” Dr. Gravois says.

Using less inputs helps both the environment and the farmers’ bottom line, which encourages broader adoption of new technologies or sugarcane varieties.

“We want our growers to be economically sustainable, our markets want a crop every year, so they have to be economically viable,” Dr. Gravois explains.

Keith Dugas is a sugarcane grower that is working with LSU to study a new technology called Green Seeker that allows farmers to apply precise amounts of nitrogen just where it’s needed.

Sensors use infrared light to determine the sugarcane’s Normalized Difference Vegetation Index – or NDVI – which identifies the stress level of plants throughout a given field and determines how much nitrogen each plant needs.

Keith farms land passed down through his family but remarks that if his dad or grandpa could see the technology he is using today “they wouldn’t believe it.”

Keith echoes Dr. Gravois’ remarks about the need to be both economically and environmentally sustainable.

“For the farmers, things are not getting any cheaper. We need to try to get more efficient and with this new technology I think there are ways we can improve and help the environment,” Keith says.

View our entire video series showcasing the sugar industry’s decades-long commitment to building a brighter future by producing sugar, sustainably.

Teaching Sustainability Using Fast Food

Deep in Louisiana sugarcane country, there lies a giant hamburger. Or rather, a food plot in the shape of a hamburger. Not too far away there are similar gardens in the shape of a hot dog, a box of french fries and a taco.

This is the Fast Food Farm in St. James Parish, a non-profit educational farm started by Denny Hymel more than 20 years ago after realizing that children were increasingly disconnected from the farms where their food comes from.

Each of the shapes above contains the individual crops used to make these common fast food items, while a nearby chicken coop provides eggs. Hands-on activities connect the farm’s school-aged visitors to each plot so they can learn first-hand how food is grown and processed.

“I just felt a great need to create something I can teach them and bring about that awareness of how important agriculture is to everyone,” Denny says.

The Fast Food Farm plays an important role in the sugar industry’s sustainability story. It’s critical that future generations understand not only how agriculture works, but also the importance of protecting the air, land and water that nurtures those crops.

“I’m teaching them how to plant, how to grow their own food. That’s sustainability,” Denny says. “They are growing. They are taking it back to their homes and they are telling their parents I want to grow this in my garden.”

Not only does Denny work with school children to help them learn more about agriculture, but any extra produce or eggs are donated to a local charity to help feed neighbors in need.

In total, approximately 95,000 people have visited the Fast Food Farm over the years. And when the pandemic put a hold on educational field trips, Denny worked quickly to provide children with hundreds of drive through “ag-tivities” in order to provide a safe and socially distant learning opportunity.

View our entire video series showcasing the sugar industry’s decades-long commitment to building a brighter future by producing sugar, sustainably.

The Future of Farming

If you’re interested in seeing what the future of farming looks like, look no further than the sugarcane fields of Louisiana. There, sugarcane farmer Shelby Duplantis and sugar analyst Sandor Garcia are paving new roads for young sugar producers.

Watch their inspiring stories and learn how they’re committed to producing sugar sustainably.

Shelby Duplantis is the fifth generation in her family to farm, working side-by-side with her father to raise sugarcane while also raising her own family.

Shelby didn’t always want to farm. But after attending business school, she saw an opportunity to utilize her education and leverage data to make their family farming operation more efficient and more sustainable every season.

Shelby is proud to be setting a strong example for other women farmers and hopes to see others follow her lead.

“If there were more women in powerful positions, or just where more people could see them, maybe more girls would want to be in farming,” Shelby said.

Sandor Garcia, a sugar analyst at M.A. Patout, entered the sugar industry after college. Originally from El Salvador, Sandor was hired to train with a market analyst who was about to retire.

M.A. Patout runs the oldest family-owned sugar mill in the United States. The company’s namesake, Mary Ann Patout, was one of the most remarkable women in Louisiana history. It’s still a family-oriented company, and Sandor credits the company’s positive culture with being a force for good in his community.

“Obviously whenever you think about sustainability, the environmental part comes to mind. And I think we’ve got that covered,” Sandor says. “But also, I think sustainability means, what are you doing for your employees?”

“That’s part of the sustainability story that needs to be kept in mind, that these jobs are jobs that are good.”

America’s sugar industry supports 142,000 good-paying jobs in more than 20 states across the country. The farmers, workers and communities that rely on sugar are at the very heart of our industry and we’re proud to see how sugar producers like Shelby and Sandor are setting the stage for a more sustainable future.

View our entire video series showcasing the sugar industry’s decades-long commitment to building a brighter future by producing sugar, sustainably.

Troubles in India Cause Price Uncertainty

It’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to leaving 2020 in the rearview mirror.

Some of the world’s largest sugar subsidizers decided to close out this year the best way they know how – by creating even more uncertainty in an already tumultuous global sugar market.

Troubles in India are contributing to wild swings in global sugar prices, demonstrating once again the importance of U.S. sugar policy that preserves America’s reliable and affordable supply of this essential ingredient.

India’s sugar exports have slid to a halt while the industry waits for the government to announce its export incentive policy. Last year, the country’s scheme covered a multitude of expenses, including marketing expenditures and transportation costs. This totaled an estimated whopping $875 million in subsidies, according to a recent USDA GAIN report. That’s only a portion of the $1.7 billion in direct and indirect government subsidies provided to Indian sugar interests that has put the nation in hot water at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Other crops generally do not have to navigate such a wild rollercoaster of prices or blatant violations of trade rules.

Sugarcane and sugarbeet farmers don’t need to plan next year’s crop while trying to bet on market fluctuations that rise and fall based on the whims and pocketbooks of foreign subsidizers. Thankfully, America’s sugar farmers and workers have the stability of U.S. sugar policy.

Until foreign sugar subsidies and their devastating impact on our farmers and workers are a thing of the past, Congress must continue to protect America’s no-cost sugar policy.

Former USDA Chief Economist to Join American Sugar Alliance in 2021

WASHINGTON – Dr. Robert Johansson will bring more than 20 years of experience to the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) when he joins the association on January 31 as the Associate Director of Economics and Policy Analysis, ASA announced today. Johansson was most recently Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), where he advised the Secretary of Agriculture, directed the analysis of commodities, and managed the designs of various USDA programs.

Johansson will work alongside ASA’s Director of Economics and Policy Analysis, Jack Roney, to provide domestic and international sugar market analysis and evaluate the farm and trade policies that affect U.S. sugar producers. Roney, who has worked with the industry for more than 30 years, plans to retire in August 2021, at which time Johansson will assume the Director role.

Prior to his selection as Chief Economist at USDA in 2015, Johansson served as the Deputy Chief Economist at USDA. Johansson has also worked in other senior-level roles at USDA as well as positions at the Congressional Budget Office and Office of Management and Budget. Johansson received his Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rob to the American Sugar Alliance,” said Jack Pettus, ASA’s chairman. “America’s sugar producers are an essential part of our country’s food supply chain, and there are a growing number of complex issues that affect the continued success of the industry. Rob brings a wealth of experience at the highest levels of government that will help us adeptly navigate current and future challenges.”

“I am honored to continue to serve U.S. agriculture by working on behalf of America’s sugar growers and workers,” Johansson said. “Strengthening U.S. sugar policies and eliminating global sugar subsidies are critical to ensuring a level-playing field for U.S. sugarcane and sugarbeet growers and the workers that process America’s sugar.”

 

New Video: Sugar is a Unique Commodity

Sugar is a unique commodity. The unique nature of America’s sugar industry, the robust sugar supply chain and the flexibility of America’s no-cost sugar policy all proved to be a strategic assets when the COVID-19 pandemic introduced new challenges earlier this year.

Sugar farmers and workers pivoted quickly in order to keep America supplied with an essential ingredient. Grocery stores remained stocked and food manufacturing lines kept humming, knowing that they had reliable access to an affordable supply of sugar.

We created a brand-new video as part of our Sugar Shorts series to share what sets sugar apart.

11,000 family farmers from the Red River Valley to the Rio Grande Valley grow sugar crops. And they grow two completely different types of sugar crops – sugarbeets and sugarcane – which are then both refined into the same sugar.

Sugar workers make and package more than 60 different varieties of sugar, which come in a range of sizes from a teaspoon serving to railcars loaded with sugar. America’s sugar companies store this sugar all across the country in strategically located state-of-the-art facilities until food manufacturers and other customers need it.

Not to mention, the majority of those companies are farmer-owned cooperatives, which helps vertically integrate the supply chain from farm to grocery store shelf.

America’s sugar policy is unique, too. The world sugar market is grossly distorted by subsidies. But America’s no-cost sugar policy is built on loans repaid with interest – not subsidy checks – which ensures a secure supply of sugar at no cost to taxpayers.

Now that’s a sweet deal.

 

Interested in learning more about U.S. sugar policy? Check out the other videos in the Sugar Shorts series.

 

Get the Facts

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that sugar policy will cost $0 over the life of the current Farm Bill.

More facts like these available here and on sugaralliance.org.

On the Tube

Sustainable Technologies Move Texas Sugar Industry Forward

Over the past two years, we’ve been on a mission to document the many ways that the American sugar industry has been delivering on its decades-long commitment to producing sugar, sustainably.

Most recently, prior to the current health crisis, the American Sugar Alliance met with the sugar farmers and workers keeping a vibrant sugar industry alive in Texas. The Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers have made significant investments over the years in sustainable technologies to conserve water and maintain healthy soils.

The importance of these efforts has come into greater focus as the current global health crisis as well as the impact from hurricane season have created new challenges for Texas and underscored the importance of the reliable production of this essential food ingredient.

When Sam Sparks’ grandfather started SRS Farms in the Rio Grande Valley, modern precision agriculture was still generations away.

Times have changed drastically. There wasn’t a whole lot of precision type practices performed back in the day.

“We wanted to find a way to better tailor not only from an economic standpoint but also a productivity standpoint,” Sparks said.

Today, SRS is a very different operation fueled by data on every aspect of farming, including the application of fertilizer. Now, Sparks can apply the precise amount of fertilizer that each specific field requires at any given time.

“This is very much sustainable because instead of applying a blanket rate of fertilizer across a field or across a farm, we are tailoring it not only per area of the farm but per field,” he said.

Water in south Texas is a scare resource, tightly managed and metered out to farms all across the Rio Grande Valley. It’s not like other places, where farmers can plan on plenty of help from the clouds.

“We actually irrigate our cane to live for the next rainfall,” said Eric Bitner, Ag Division Manager for Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers. “That’s exactly what happens.”

Precision ag has so many different meanings, he said. The biggest thing is simply producing more sugarcane with less inputs, such as water. Bitner is helping farmers use a new irrigation system that they can control from their phones using Wi-Fi capabilities.

“Using every millimeter of irrigation water… we can actually use less water and get a good, if not better, product to the sugar mill,” he said.

Because water is so critical to the farming communities that call this region home, keeping that water clean is one of the highest priorities of the sugar cane industry.

At the Rio Grande Valley sugar mill, all of the water that comes from making raw sugar is reused, cleaned or evaporated. Even the water that falls on the mill as rain.

Water that isn’t reused in the process of making raw sugar, is captured and sent to evaporation ponds so that it doesn’t end up in the public waste streams.

“I think it’s very important to be an environmental steward,” said Leonard Simmons, Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers board chairman. “And as not only a cane grower, but as a citizen here in the Rio Grande Valley, I want to make sure that our water resources continue to be good and clean for everybody to use.”

For more information on the sustainability efforts of America’s sugar industry – from the Rio Grande to the Red River Valley and everywhere in between – please visit SugarSustainably.org.

Texas Sugarcane Industry Plays Key Role Supporting Communities

It’s been a tough year for sugar farmers and factory workers in the Rio Grande Valley, as first the global health crisis and then the landfall of Hurricane Hanna created new challenges. The Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers are a critical part of these South Texas communities and we have faith that working together, they will continue to support each other during these unprecedented times.

Recovery will not come easily, but the Texan sugar industry has a long history of supporting its neighbors and investing in sustainable communities.

Earlier this year, the American Sugar Alliance traveled to south Texas to get a first-hand look at how the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers give back as a key part of their commitment to sustainability.

For decades, sugar farmers and workers in Texas have been sustainably growing sugar cane and producing raw sugar in this beautiful place. But their commitment to sustainability does not end at the farm gate. They also help ensure that the rural communities in the surrounding area remain strong – a mission that has become even more critical as the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the nation.

Ofelia Gonzales works for Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers processing data in the mill. She’s also a member of the local Rotary and sees the industry’s impact firsthand in the many ways they support the Rotary’s community efforts.

“I’ve always helped in the community at one end or the other,” she said. “The sugar mill is one of our main sponsors for the Rotary.”

The mill is also an important partner with the Ronald McDonald House in Harlingen, Texas.

“It’s all fundraising and donations from the community” said Denise Cantu, the program manager. “They help us with sponsoring our events and they also give us an annual donation at the end of the year. They help with helping the families. And that’s a great feeling that they are here and able to help us. Because it’s very hard to ask for the donations and to be able to run this place. It’s very expensive.”

Of course, sustainability also means a commitment to protecting the resources that allow our farmers to grow sugarcane. And when it’s time for harvest, the farmers in the Rio Grande Valley go big.

“We run 24 hours a day,” said Sean Brashear, CEO of Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers. “That means we harvest 24 hours a day, we deliver 24 hours a day.”

With all that cane comes fiber from leaves and stalks that is removed and piled high. It’s called bagasse and it doesn’t go to waste. This green energy source powers both the massive mill as well as surrounding homes and businesses.

“If everything works well, we produce excess power that we go ahead and distribute on the grid,” he said. “From there, our nearest neighboring town is Santa Rosa, and we go ahead and feed it through Santa Rosa and for the most part we have the potential for supplying 100 percent of the power for Santa Rosa.”

Stay tuned for more videos of the incredible ways that the Texas sugarcane industry is producing sugar, sustainably.

New Podcast Features Sugar Industry’s Community Efforts During COVID-19

Our friends over at Farm Policy Facts have released a new episode of their podcast Groundwork, featuring two sweet stories about how the sugar industry has stepped up during the pandemic.

The episode starts in the middle of a sugarcane field in St. James Parish, Louisiana, where there stands a giant hamburger. Or rather, a farm plot in the shape of a hamburger that is growing each of its component ingredients, such as wheat for the bun or soybeans that will eventually become an ingredient in mayonnaise.

This is the Fast Food Farm, a nonprofit teaching farm, founded by Denny Hymel about 20 years ago to fill a pressing educational need in her community.

The Fast Food Farm teaches children where their food comes from and it was planning one of its largest events of the year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. While the health crisis shut down schools, it didn’t put a stop to the need to educate the children that normally visit the farm on field trips.

“I’ve got to do something… how do I teach about agriculture to these children when they’re not in school and they can’t come to [the farm],” Denny recalls saying.

So, like any good fast food place, Denny opened a drive-through.

Once a week, for five weeks, Denny put together hundreds of “ag-tivities” and passed them out to local families in order to provide a safe and socially distant learning opportunity. One of the ag-tivities taught children about the lifecycle of butterflies while another provided the materials to put together birdfeeders. Needless to say, they were a huge hit with kids and parents alike.

“It was such a tremendous appreciation from those parents when they came through thanking us for doing this,” she says.

Taking care of the earth, and each other, is a big part of the mission of the Louisiana-based Fast Food Farm. That includes investing in sustainable communities by growing and donating vegetables to a local charity which distributes them to the needy – which they felt was even more critical to continue during COVID-19.

Groundwork then takes a trip up north to Minnesota’s sugarbeet country to hear the incredible steps that American Crystal Sugar Company has taken to help keep their employees safe.

Lisa Borgen, Vice President of Administration at the American Crystal Sugar Company, says the company moved fast to make safety changes in reaction to the pandemic. It posted guidance around the facility early and limited meetings. It was important to American Crystal that they keep their employees healthy and support them during this challenging time.

“We added additional occupational health nurses so that we would have a nurse in every location so that all employees could have a resource to talk to personally,” Lisa said. They also began taking temperatures as soon as they could procure thermometers and mandated masks and other face coverings in their facilities.

“All of those things we felt were critically important to make sure that we weren’t spreading germs around the factory,” Lisa continued. “And additionally, we gave every employee a bank of 40 hours of what we call COVID sick time… because really, we want people to stay home when they’re not feeling well.”

American Crystal also found a way to share its appreciation for its hardworking employees while also supporting community restaurants. American Crystal awarded each of its employees with a $75 gift card for restaurants throughout the Red River Valley.

Keeping the supply of sugar moving to food makers was also important, she says.

“If we were unable to get that get that sugar to [food manufacturers] and they were unable to make those products, then the country as a whole would have a shortage of all the things that people love,” she says. “And sugar isn’t just in cookies and candy and drinks. Sugar is in almost everything you buy on the shelf.”

We know the whole industry is pulling together and working hard to keep our important product available for American consumers, and we are so proud to feature these two incredible sectors of our industry in this month’s Groundwork podcast. Listen to the entire episode here.

New Report Finds No Evidence that U.S. Sugar Program Harms Profitability of Sugar-Using Companies

A collaborative analysis conducted by four agricultural economics professors at the University of Tennessee and Oklahoma State University has found that U.S. sugar prices do not impede the financial performance of sugar-using firms.

The analysis thoroughly examined, and rejected, the claim from sugar-using firms “that as the U.S. price of sugar increases relative to the world sugar price, this negatively impacts their profits.” As the authors note, their findings “suggest that U.S. sugar-using firms pass on higher costs to consumers when relative prices increase or do not pass on discounts to consumers when relative sugar prices decrease.”

This was on full display in the aftermath of the dumping of subsidized Mexican sugar on the U.S. market in 2013. Sugar prices plummeted, costing U.S. producers $4 billion and many sugar workers their jobs. Meanwhile, Americans paid higher prices at the grocery store for sweetened products and manufacturers pocketed the profits.

This report expands upon a well-known 2016 report published by Dr. Alexander Triantis, during his tenure as dean of the University of Maryland business school, and analyzes the financial performance of 26 publicly traded companies that use sugar primarily purchased in the United States. In his 2016 report, Dr. Triantis found that under current U.S. sugar policy, the nine largest publicly traded firms producing sugar-containing products had added jobs, increased production, and far outpaced the rest of the food processing industry in profit returns.

The full report prepared by the University of Tennessee and Oklahoma State University agricultural economists can be found here. This is an independent and peer-reviewed report for which no industry funding was received and which was originally published by Agricultural and Food Economics.

Dr. Karen L. DeLong, one of the report’s authors and an Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Tennessee, said that the analysis yielded conclusive results.

“The U.S. sugar program buffers domestic sugar producers against heavily subsidized foreign sugar, but sugar-using firms claim that this program maintains artificially high domestic prices and therefore decreases profits. The data show that when all other conditions remain the same, there is no evidence to support these claims,” DeLong said.

In fact, the analysis found the unexpected result that “as U.S. prices increase relative to world prices, sugar-using firms are more profitable.”

“America’s sugar farmers and workers are proud to provide our customers with more than 60 different types of affordable and sustainably produced American sugar,” said Jack Pettus, chairman of the American Sugar Alliance. “This analysis confirms what our industry has long known: the price stability provided by America’s no-cost sugar policy has no negative effect on the bottom line of sugar-using companies.”

Pettus continued, “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of essential products like sugar to be produced in the U.S. and delivered through reliable supply chains. America’s sugar farmers and workers need a strong no-cost sugar policy to give us a fighting chance against excess foreign imports that threaten our ability to produce sugar domestically.”

Sour Subsidies Underscore Need for U.S. Sugar Policy

The widespread use of foreign government support and subsidies have contributed to a wildly unpredictable global sugar market. And foreign intervention only continues to rise as nations struggle to prop up their inefficient producers and deal with the overproduction spurred by these very same sugar subsidies. As a result, sugar exports are being dumped by dozens of countries on the world market at prices that are half the cost of producing it world-wide and well below their own countries’ internal consumer prices.

The American Sugar Alliance recently reviewed all of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2020 Semi-Annual Sugar GAIN reports and compiled all mentions of the various ways more than 20 foreign governments intervene in their sugar markets into one convenient report.

State run companies. Direct payments. Export subsidies. Government-set prices.

These are just some of the sour policies used for such a sweet crop, especially when compared to America’s successful no-cost policy, which doesn’t rely on subsidies. And all of it is documented in this report.

Let’s look at a snapshot of recent developments affecting sugar sectors in countries around the world, including some covered in the aforementioned 2020 USDA GAIN reports.:

  • Thailand approved a 10 billion baht bailout package for its sugar farmers – that amounts to approximately $323 million.
  • India is reportedly moving ahead with a support package for its sugar industry, estimated to be in the $1.3-$1.6 billion range.
  • A special Sugar Inquiry Commission in Pakistan recently released a report detailing the approximately $177 million in sugar subsidies that have flowed into the coffers of a handful of sugar mills since 1985.
  • So many buyers rushed to get their hands on Brazil’s subsidized sugar, made sweeter by its devalued currency, that the country is currently dealing with a giant container ship traffic jam.
  • Egypt – where most of the sugar processors are state-run companies – have flat out banned sugar imports for the next three months to protect their industry from the volatile prices on the world market.
  • Russia has turned from a major world importer of sugar to a growing exporter, with the government having recently allowed for the establishment of sugar export associations to help facilitate further exports abroad.

Meanwhile, America’s strong no-cost sugar policy protects efficient American sugar farmers and workers and ensures that we maintain an affordable supply of this essential ingredient.

But if we were to unilaterally weaken or cripple this successful policy in the face of rampant subsidization, without passing the Zero-for-Zero Sugar Policy, the more than 142,000 sugar farmers and workers the American sugar industry supports would likely face bankruptcy.

After all, the multigenerational family farmers that grow sugarcane in three states or sugarbeets in 11 states, and all of the factory workers that process sugar, can’t compete against the billions that foreign treasuries dump into the market.

That’s why the American sugar industry is advocating that Congress pass Congressman Ted Yoho’s Zero-for-Zero Sugar Policy (H. Con. Res. 7) to put a stop to the wave of sugar subsides causing market turmoil. It’s a common-sense proposal that would only drop America’s no-cost sugar policy in exchange for the verified elimination of all foreign sugar subsidies.

It’s time for the Zero-for-Zero Sugar Policy.

Sugar Industry Lends Helping Hand to Support Nation’s Recovery

Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our daily routines, but it has not dimmed the hope and giving spirit that shines through America’s sugar industry.

The majority of America’s sugar operations are located in small towns and rural areas, fostering a tightknit relationship between sugar farmers and workers and the communities where they live and work. From day one of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sugar industry has led efforts to feed and protect its neighbors in need.

When Amalgamated Sugar Company found itself with a surplus of masks above and beyond what was required to protect its workers, it donated 2,000 surplus cloth masks to the Boise Rescue Mission Ministries to help protect vulnerable men, woman and children from the spread of COVID-19.

“Amalgamated Sugar’s generous gift of 2,000 face masks provides a timely resource that is so appreciated,” said Reverend Bill Roscoe, president of Boise Rescue Mission Ministries. “I am amazed at their kindness and generosity to the Rescue Mission as we continue to serve people through very difficult circumstances.”

We are so proud of the sweet ways America’s sugar industry has lent a helping hand in support of our nation’s recovery. We’ve profiled many of them already, but are thankful to be able to keep sharing more examples of the humble generosity of our sugar producers.

American Crystal Sugar Company prides itself on the local ties its employees have fostered within the local communities. So, it wanted to find a way to share its appreciation for its hardworking employees as well as support local restaurants that have been affected by COVID-19.

American Crystal awarded each of its nearly 2,000 employees with $75 in gift cards for restaurants throughout the Red River Valley as well as near Sidney, Montana.

Sugar farmers have always been quick to share their blessings by supporting food donation efforts. However, the pandemic has created even greater food insecurity in many of our rural communities. In response, farmers and sugar companies have stepped up efforts to help, including Florida Crystals.

Florida Crystals and its farmers also donated sugar, rice and fresh produce to local hospitals during National Nurses Week and National Hospital Week in gratitude for the dedicated medical professionals on the front lines of this pandemic.

But sugar is more than just a key ingredient for many of the foods we know and love. As distilleries make hand sanitizer to support relief and recovery efforts, sugar companies have donated tens of thousands of pounds of a critical component: sugar.

Florida Crystals joined these ranks with its donation of 42,500 pounds of cane sugar to a local Florida rum distillery to produce and donate hand and surface sanitizer to first responders, hospitals, nursing homes and community members.

This season might look vastly different for our farmers, our factories and our families. The challenges created by the pandemic may be new, but our dedication to preserving vibrant rural communities, farm families and small businesses has long been a tenet of the industry’s commitment to sustainability and will continue to drive our efforts to aid recovery.

We’re all in this together and hope will persevere.

Sugar Industry Sustains Communities During Pandemic

For decades, America’s sugar industry has been proud to be a sustainable economic driver in communities across the country, producing high-quality sugar while providing well-paying jobs. As America comes together to present a united front against the COVID-19 virus, the on-farm and factory jobs the sugar industry supports across America are more important than ever in keeping communities strong and a crucial food ingredient flowing to American families.

The industry is also working on new and creative ways to help other businesses keep their doors open.

Michigan Sugar Company has been hard at work during this pandemic finishing its sugar beet slicing campaign, one of the busiest times of the year, in order to help keep the nation’s supply chain of sugar full. During this difficult season, company officials decided that they wanted to help businesses that were facing a slowdown due to the pandemic.

Michigan Sugar bought 2,600 gift cards from more than 50 restaurants from Michigan communities of Bay City, Caro, Croswell, Sebewaing and Ohio communities of Fremont, Findlay and Toledo.

In total, Michigan Sugar spent $131,000 to give all of its 1,300 employees $100 cards to spend in the community at restaurants that have lost customers.

“We hope this helps ease the pain of this pandemic for those businesses just a little bit,” Michigan Sugar Company Board Chairman Adam Herford told Mlive.com

Sugar farmers and workers are an essential part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to work hard, despite the uncertainty and risk, in order to keep grocery store shelves stocked and food moving to American consumers.

Michigan Sugar Co. President and CEO Mark Flegenheimer thanked employees for keeping products flowing.

“During this stressful and challenging time related to the COVID-19 pandemic, our employees have stayed focused on the task at hand and shown incredible determination as we continue to produce, package and ship sugar on a daily basis. I can’t thank them enough for the dedication they have shown and the efforts they have made to keep our products flowing into the marketplace,” he said.

America’s sugar farmers and producers’ mission for sustainability fuels their drive to help our nation’s recovery. The industry is focused on providing safe and affordable food and preserving good jobs and the communities that have been built around sugar. Even when disaster – or a pandemic – strikes.

Because if there is anyone who knows resiliency, it’s an American farmer.

As Pastor Gary McNealy, of the Friendship Baptist Church in Harlem, Florida, said: “Farmers always have our backs.”

From Sugar to Sweet Corn: Feeding Our Communities

With their friends and neighbors facing job loss and uncertainty due to COVID-19, U.S. Sugar provided 1,000 crates of green beans as well as fresh Florida orange juice to churches, healthcare providers, and food banks across South Florida. U.S. Sugar isn’t alone in its efforts to keep the community fed by donating truckloads of food.

Across America, sugar growers and producers are stepping up to help sustain local families as economic hardship has increased demands for assistance.

The sugar industry is providing donations to food pantries, ensuring children have access to food programs with the absence of school-based meals and helping feed the elderly who depend on community-based food programs.

The iconic Domino Sugar refinery in Baltimore, Maryland, delivered sugar to Catholic Charities of Baltimore, which was distributed to four food pantries in the city and will be used at Our Daily Bread Employment Center to provide individuals with a daily hot meal.

The Domino Sugar refineries in Chalmette, Louisiana and Yonkers, New York each donated granulated sugar to food banks to be distributed to families in the area.

C&H Sugar in California donated sugar to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, which is working to provide a consistent supply of food to those it serves while also meeting a new and growing need for nourishing meals in the community.

These company efforts supplement the generous donations provided by individual sugar farmers across the country.

As the harm inflicted by COVID-19 on their neighbors grew, South Florida cane farmer Paul Orsenigo and business partner David Basore of Grower’s Management Inc. increased their monthly donation of sweet corn, lettuce and fresh cabbage to a Feed the Hungry food bank in Palm Beach County. Their donations help the food bank feed more than 3,000-5,000 families every day.

Orsenigo and Basore have also donated vegetables to the Place of Hope in Palm Beach Gardens, which supports more than 300 foster children and at-risk youth.

“The need for food has increased dramatically in recent weeks,” Orsenigo said. “We are thankful that we have the opportunity to support those in need by providing healthy and nutritious Glades-grown vegetables to local charities.”

At the American Sugar Alliance, we are grateful to have the opportunity to support the humble and hardworking farmers and workers who make up the American sugar industry. Thank you for the essential work that you continue to perform, and the love and compassion you have displayed for your friends and neighbors during this exceptionally difficult time.

Sugar Producers ‘Have Our Backs’ Amid Pandemic

Volunteers at U.S. Sugar recently donned masks and carefully packed crates brimming full of green beans. Each crate full of fresh produce was destined for a local church or community group.

When the farmers at U.S. Sugar saw that many of their neighbors in the community were facing food insecurity due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they knew exactly what to do.

“We are neighbors helping neighbors and trying to share the bounty of our farms with local families when they need it most,” said Judy Sanchez, U.S. Sugar Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. “These communities, where we have lived and raised our families for generations, hold a special place in our hearts.”

In total, they donated more than 120,000 servings of green beans to those who needed it most.

“In this crisis and many others, farmers always have our backs and we are grateful for their hard work growing food for Americans,” said Pastor Gary McNealy, of the Friendship Baptist Church in Harlem, Florida.

While still working in fields and factories to produce an essential food ingredient, sugar farmers and producers across America have also been quietly acting in a multitude of ways to support our communities during this unprecedented pandemic. These extraordinary gestures are an ordinary act for an industry that prides itself on providing a helping hand and investing in sustainable communities.

Now more than ever, that commitment is critical.

Sugar producers have donated nourishing produce to food pantries and sugar to distilleries to produce hand sanitizer. They’ve provided protective equipment to keep frontline health care providers safe. And they’ve purchased gift cards to help local restaurants stay open and employees fed.

The American sugar industry is working in innovative ways to keep our communities strong. We are proud of the generosity of our industry, so we are sharing a small series of stories focused on these inspiring gestures.

Our series will take you around the nation as we chronicle the efforts of the men and women who grow and produce our sugar as they support the national fight against COVID-19.

America’s Sugar Growers are Still Farming

Over the past several months, the world has changed dramatically as we confront an unseen enemy. Despite physical distance and stay-at-home orders, Americans have found new community as together we face uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.

Even as this pandemic unfolds, we must continue to eat, which means farmers continue to farm. In fact, the federal government declared that farmers and food manufacturers are an essential workforce and a critical part of the national response to COVID-19. Despite the many challenges they currently face, rural America and the nation’s farmers continue to work tirelessly to provide us all with a safe and affordable supply of food.

For the sugarbeet growers who farm in Southern California’s Imperial Valley, harvest must go on.

Southern California sugar growers are unique in that their harvest starts on April 1 and stretches through the summer. They are an essential part of the food supply chain for a significant portion of the Southwest/Pacific markets, as the Imperial Valley growers supply the sugar needs of nearly 7.5 million people who call California home. For perspective, that’s enough sugar to feed the four largest cities in California – Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco – and then some.

“Rural America is not exempt from the anxiety we all feel about the threat that coronavirus poses. However, one thing I am not worried about is America’s food production. I see first-hand every day that agriculture is still moving forward,” sugarbeet grower Suzanne Rutherford said.

“We are thankful for a beautiful sugarbeet crop that, during the next few months’ harvest will again be a driver in our local economy. California sugar will eventually be delivered to our bakery and confectionery customers, and in turn will move as an essential ingredient along the food supply chain to your grocery shelves. Particularly in times like these, I’m proud to be a small but very important part of this supply chain.”

Suzanne and her husband Curt are both multi-generation farmers, whose grandparents arrived in the Imperial Valley at the beginning of the 20th century.

“When we planted sugarbeets here in the Imperial Valley desert last fall, the coronavirus was unheard of. Now, in completely different times, we are ready to begin harvest on April 1, just as we always have,” Curt Rutherford said.

“With the health crisis facing the nation, I feel that the agricultural community will come through and provide a safe, bountiful supply of food and fiber for the nation,” Curt added. “We have millions of Americans depending on our farms and factory to meet their needs.”

Adapting to new challenges is a defining characteristic of rural America and this year’s harvest will be unlike any harvest before as producers take additional measures to protect the health and safety of their growers and workers.

“I’m extremely grateful for a crop to harvest, especially when you consider the recent disaster that happened in other beet growing regions of the United States,” said Von Medearis, President of the California Beet Growers Association. “I feel it’s an honor to be one of the few who can do this.”

Grower Jason Taylor echoed that sentiment, saying, “I feel blessed to do what I do. I really enjoy being able to produce an important part of the American food chain.”

We pray that our beet growers in Southern California have a safe harvest and we are thinking of the farmers all across this country working hard so that we may have the food necessary to nourish our families.

To all of our beet and cane growers, farmers and ranchers, and the essential workers who help bring our food products to market: Thank you for #StillFarming.

Strong Sugar Policy Means Sustainability

Dozens of America’s beet and cane sugar farmers are once again heading to Capitol Hill this week to meet with hundreds of lawmakers and share the importance of protecting America’s no-cost sugar policy.

They’ve left their farms and families behind to travel to Washington because without a strong sugar policy, America’s homegrown sugar industry and the 142,000 jobs it supports would not be able to compete against subsidized foreign sugar dumped onto the U.S. market.

But America’s no-cost sugar policy does more than protect producers against foreign subsidies and provide Americans with a reliable and affordable supply of sweet sugar. It also allows America’s beet and cane sugar farmers to be global leaders in sustainable sugar production – check out some of the sugar industry’s stories of sustainability at the links below.

 

A strong U.S. sugar policy … 

Supports an industry that is building upon decades of work to produce sugar, sustainably.

Promotes the adoption of environmentally friendly technologies and builds upon advancements already achieved such as reductions in greenhouse gases and improvements in water and soil quality.

Provides sustainable economic opportunities, often in both rural and urban communities where jobs can otherwise be limited. The sugar industry pays fair wages and good benefits, collectively totaling $4.2 billion.

Fosters a skilled and diverse workforce. The sugar industry takes pride in encouraging employee growth with initiatives such as on-the-job training and technical classes.

Allows sugar companies to provide development opportunities for their employees, like Kelly Moorhart, who took advantage of her company’s tuition reimbursement program to further her education and advance her career.

Encourages the sugar industry to invest in strengthening their communities, whether by working hand-in-hand with local organizations or hosting their own charity events.

Supports America’s resilient sugar producers as they endure economic challenges and unpredictable weather events as well as the communities that rely on the success of our industry.

All this, from a program designed to cost taxpayers $0. That’s a sweet deal.

U.S. Sugar Policy Supports American Jobs & Strong Communities

America’s no-cost sugar policy supports well-paying jobs and provides economic opportunities for our communities. In fact, the sugar industry generates 142,000 jobs across the country and adds $20 billion to the U.S. economy.

Sugar companies pay fair wages and offer good benefits, providing opportunities in communities where jobs can otherwise be limited. Our industry takes pride in fostering a skilled workforce. Whether it’s partnering with community colleges to develop educational opportunities or providing tuition reimbursement, additional training and technical classes, the sugar industry is continually encouraging growth and career advancement.

 

The skilled employees who help produce high-quality American sugar are an integral part of our industry. The American Sugar Alliance recently traveled to Minnesota to hear from sugar company employees on-the-ground about the steps our industry is taking to create a sustainable workforce.

Kelly Moorhart, a safety specialist at American Crystal Sugar Company, made incredible advancements in her career thanks to the company’s tuition reimbursement program. “They invested so much in me, and so early on in my career… I really do appreciate the fact that American Crystal Sugar invests so much in their employees,” said Moorhart.

American Crystal Sugar Company also partners with Minnesota State Community and Technical College to develop employee maintenance skills. This success of this partnership has been recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges as a finalist for their 2020 Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership Award of Excellence.

Elsewhere in the factory, Technical Training Lead, John Wagar, helps lead the Process Technician program. This training program provides a clear career path and the necessary on-the-job training to ensure long-term employee success.

All American Crystal Sugar Company employees are members of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. In fact, 100 percent of beet sugar processors employ union labor, as do most cane refineries.

Outside of the factory, sugar companies and employees are active within our neighborhoods and engage with local leaders to help foster more sustainable communities.

Thanks in part to U.S. Sugar, thousands of students in Florida started school in August 2019 with brand-new backpacks filled with the supplies they would need for a successful year. Brannan Thomas, U.S. Sugar’s Community Relations Manager and a native of Belle Glade, helped lead this project and has spearheaded countless other initiatives to support youth programs, schools and other charities in the area.

“The support of the sugar industries in South Central Florida create sustainable communities, and I am proud to be a part of that,” Thomas said.

Wylie Wisnewski, a teacher at Red River Area Learning Center, did not have the resources he needed to create an engaging project-based learning environment. Through the American Crystal Sugar Company Community Roots program, Wisnewski and his classroom received two STEM Grants to ensure students had the resources they needed.

The American sugar industry does more than just produce affordable homegrown sugar. We invest countless volunteer hours and significant financial resources into our employees, schools and communities.

People lie at the heart of our industry, and we are proud to help empower our workforce and create a more inclusive and sustainable society.

Sugar Farmers Committed to Protecting Our Planet

Next week, sugar farmers from Florida to California will be trading in their coveralls and boots for ties and suits to meet with dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They will be sharing an important message with Congress: foreign sugar subsidies distort the global market and hinder sustainability.

Thankfully, America’s no-cost sugar policy rewards responsible actions to protect our planet. Our farmers are leading the way on sustainable sugar production.

The American Sugar Alliance recently traveled to two sugar-farming states to talk with sugar producers first-hand about the farming practices they are using to sustain our environment.

“We are the original folks that understood sustainability. By nature, we have to sustain what’s precious to us, and what is vital to us and that’s our land,” says Michael Ellis, Vice President of Strategic Environmental Affairs at U.S. Sugar. Florida’s sugarcane farmers value the incredible resources and unique ecosystems that Florida has to offer and have invested more than $450 million to restore and preserve the Everglades.

In order to protect the Everglades, it’s critical to keep soil on farms and prevent phosphorus from entering the water. Sugarcane farmers in South Florida collaborated with scientists, industry partners and government agencies to develop state-of-the-art farming practices to protect the environment and reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Florida’s waterways.

The result? For the past 24 years, Florida sugarcane farmers have on average reduced the amount of phosphorus leaving their farms by 56 percent. That’s more than double the reduction target required by law.

“Being able to produce a crop, helping feed the world, and making the environment a better place? It’s a win-win,” says Jarad Plair, a farm manager for U.S. Sugar.

Nearly 2,000 miles away, we joined fifth-generation farmer Curt Knutson as the sugarbeet harvest in Minnesota was in full swing. Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Knutson and the other farmers who are part of the American Crystal Sugar Company co-op. It’s a way of life.

“We do things sustainably, that’s what keeps us going generation to generation,” Knutson says.

For Minnesota’s Red River Valley, sugarbeets are also a critical component of the region’s economic sustainability. American Crystal Sugar Company produces and sells approximately 3 billion pounds of sugar a year, and those sales have a $4.5 billion economic impact in the Red River Valley. The sugarbeet crop supports more than just the farmers, it supports grocery stores, equipment manufacturers, service providers and everyone else who lives in that region.

Sugar Producers Aren’t Feeling the Love

This Valentine’s Day, Americans will spend an estimated $2.4 billion buying candy treats for their sweet.

American sugar farmers and workers are proud to share the love by producing an affordable supply of homegrown sugar. But it’s heartbreaking that America’s sugar farmers and workers will receive just a small share of those sales.

The American Sugar Alliance is releasing two new social media graphics to highlight the low cost of sugar in popular Valentine’s Day items.

A heart-shaped box of chocolates costs $15.99, but sugar producers receive only $0.09. And they see just $0.06 of the $1.25 price tag for a box of conversation hearts.

Despite their big profits, Big Candy wants to break up with our no-cost sugar policy. It’s clear that Big Candy has nothing to complain about – sugar farmers and workers are receiving just pennies for their hard work.

We hope that Congress will send a valentine to America’s 142,000 sugar farmers and workers by pledging to protect our strong no-cost sugar policy.

 

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New Videos Highlight Sugar’s Strides on Sustainability

The American Sugar Alliance recently hit the road, traveling from farm to factory to see sustainable sugar production in action. Along the way, we met farmers who care passionately about being good stewards of the land and workers who utilize cutting-edge manufacturing technology to produce high-quality American sugar.

Our first two stops included the sugarbeet industry in Minnesota’s Red River Valley and the sugarcane fields of South Florida, where sugar workers shared with us the incredible advances that allow our industry to produce sugar, sustainably.

 

The root of a sugarbeet contains approximately 18 percent sugar. So what do sugar producers do with the remaining 80 percent of the beet? John Wagar has more than 40 years’ experience processing sugarbeets, and he took us behind-the-scenes at the American Crystal Sugar Company factory in Moorhead, Minnesota to answer this question.

Sugar producers use nearly every part of the beet. They process the wastewater from the sugarbeet into clean water and create co-products from leftover pulp. Factories even separate dirt from sugarbeets so that this rich organic material can be returned to the field.

The milling of sugarcane also results in a leftover fibrous pulp, called bagasse. Where some people might just see trash, though, sugarcane workers see an incredible sustainable energy source. U.S. Sugar primarily uses bagasse to fuel their boilers, using very little fossil fuels and helping drastically reduce emissions.

Advances in technology have helped sugar producers make strides in sustainability in the field as well. Did you know that U.S. Sugar owns one of the largest privately-owned WiFi networks in the world? It covers 270 square miles and allows tractors to navigate with absolute precision.

The commitment our industry shares to sustainability and the protection of our natural resources is incredibly personal. “As farmers, we understand that in order to be successful, you need to have a healthy environment,” says Gracelyn Byrd, agronomist for U.S. Sugar.

Stay tuned for more sweet videos from sugar farmers and workers from across the country.

Texas Sugar Producers Tip Their Hat to Sugar Policy

Deep in the heart of Texas, approximately 112 farmers grow sugar cane across 41,000 acres along the banks of the Rio Grande river.

These farmers and their farmer-owned cooperative, Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, are important members of the Rio Grande Valley community and a critical part of the Texan economy. Unfortunately, they are all that is left of the once-booming sugar industry in south Texas.

Sugar production in the Lone Star State has a rich legacy spanning more than 200 years. However, economic and political hardships in the early 20th century forced the closure of the last of the sugar mills. In 1973, a group of farmers worked together to re-establish a sustainable sugar industry in the Rio Grande Valley.

Today, the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers are not only keeping this historic industry alive but also working to sustain the local economy. And America’s sugar policy has played a critical role in allowing sugar production to once again take root in Texas.

During the 2017/2018 growing season, their mill in Santa Rosa, Texas processed almost 1.7 million tons of sugar cane, producing more than 165,000 tons of raw sugar and nearly 60,000 tons of molasses. In fact, the mill produces enough sugar to provide an entire year’s worth of refined sugar to more than 7.7 million consumers.

And all of the hard work that goes into harvesting and processing that sugar certainly has a sweet effect on the economy.

According to Sean Brashear, President and CEO of Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, the sugar cane industry in Texas contributes $140.3 million annually to the state’s economy and supports an estimated 801 jobs statewide.

From the fields to the mill and everywhere in between, more than 300 people are directly employed by the sugar industry in the Rio Grande Valley. And hundreds more have jobs thanks to the economic impact generated by the mill and the farmers who supply it.

“We are proud to contribute to the rural economies that rely on the sugar industry,” Brashear said. “America’s sugar policy allows our farmers and workers to withstand a global market that is defined by foreign subsidies and depressed prices. Continued support of this policy will ensure that the legacy of sugar farming in Texas can survive.”

Just like sugar farmers and workers across the country, the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers are continually striving to become more efficient producers.

Farmers utilize GPS technology to minimize the use of diesel, fertilizer and pesticides and the Rio Grande Valley mill uses leftover cane from the milling process, called bagasse, as fuel to generate steam and electricity. When operating at peak efficiency, the mill creates enough electricity to power the nearby town of Santa Rosa.

The positive effects of the Texan sugar industry extend far beyond the state. Raw sugar is sold to a refinery in Louisiana and shipped by barge via the intracoastal waterway, bringing economic benefits to communities along the Gulf Coast on the way.

Many of the Rio Grande Valley farmers share a deep connection to this land. Board Chairman Leonard Simmons’ family has farmed in the Rio Grande Valley for 100 years.

“It’s important for us to share the story of sugar in the Rio Grande Valley,” Simmons said. “Producing sugar means supporting our families, contributing to our communities, being responsible stewards of the land, and continuing this heritage for the next generation.”

And Simmons credits Congress for supporting the sugar industry in Texas by approving a 2018 Farm Bill that maintains a strong sugar policy.

“Congress firmly rejected cutting our families, farms and livelihood out of the Farm Bill. We hope they will continue to stand up for sugar producers in Texas and beyond.”

Thankfully, the sugar industry in Texas is no longer simply a part of history.

Idaho Grower Trailblazes Industry-Changing Technology

Duane Grant never set out to be an agricultural pioneer. He just wanted to continue the family farm and make his dad proud.

Grant grew up on his father Douglas’s farm in Southern Idaho and contributed from an early age, eventually joining the operation full-time after high school.

Since he joined the operation in 1980, he has become the CEO of Grant 4-D Farms and guided a more than 50-fold increase in the farm’s size and production. Grant 4-D Farms grows sugarbeets, potatoes, seed potatoes, wheat, malt barley, corn, and hay on its farms in Southern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.

“Hard work and technology-fueled the growth,” said Grant, who is also the chairman of Amalgamated Sugar Company.

And no technology has been as revolutionary as sugarbeet seeds that are bioengineered to resist weed-killing herbicides – a process commonly called GMO. Grant credits the invention with reducing the industry’s environmental footprint as well as saving countless farms from ruin.

“My family has been involved in agriculture since migrating from Scotland more than 100 years ago,” Grant said. “We are now seeing the next generation working on our family farms, and it is an incredible feeling to know that thanks to advancements like biotechnology our operations can continue to contribute to the local economy and the nation’s food supply.”

Like many farms in his area, sugarbeets are at the heart of Grant’s operation. But the crop was becoming harder and harder for families like his to produce.

“Beets are a nightmare to grow because of weeds,” he explained. “Sugar farmers can go bankrupt if they can’t successfully control weeds. That used to mean a rigorous regimen that required lots of money, lots of chemicals, and lots of people working long hours.”

So, in the early 2000s, Grant dedicated himself to bringing the same GMO technology to sugarbeets that was benefitting corn and soybean farmers.

Numerous field trials testing genetically-modified beets were conducted on Grant’s farm. He was one of the first farmers who agreed to take the leap of faith and commercially plant a GMO sugarbeet crop in 2007. And, he was deeply involved with a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory committee charged with charting a course for the future of biotechnology.

By 2008, other sugarbeet farmers were eager to enjoy GMO’s benefits, and nearly 60 percent of U.S. beet production had shifted. Just one year later, bioengineered seeds accounted for 95 percent of the nation’s sugarbeet crop.

Since the introduction of GMO sugarbeet seed, Grant said per acre productivity has accelerated to the point where growers associated with Amalgamated Sugar get twice as much production from less than half the amount of inputs they did 15 years ago.

This means less spraying of herbicides; less tilling and stripping of the land, which leads to erosion; and less need for costly farm equipment that burns fossil fuels.

“When I was a kid, the valley where we grow used to turn brown from wind-blown soil erosion caused by traditional sugarbeet tillage practices.” Grant said. “That doesn’t happen anymore…we stay green and it’s thanks to the genetically modified seed.”

In fact, scientific studies show that bioengineered sugarbeets have reduced ecotoxicity and environmental risk by 92 percent and 98 percent respectively. And this technology has enabled farmers to utilize better farming practices that have cut soil-derived carbon emissions by 80%.

And with sugar prices low and stagnating, and with production costs climbing, the development of GMO sugarbeet seed also helped alleviate the economic squeeze of weed control that was crippling Grant and his neighbors.

In short, more sugarbeets are being produced on less land, and it’s being done in a more economical and environmental way.

“Best of all, when the natural sugar contained in beets is extracted during the refining process, the resulting table sugar is identical to sugar from non-GMO beet or cane sugar,” Grant said, “which is important to some consumers.”

Grant is astonished when he sits back and thinks about how far his farm and the industry has come in just the past decade.

“It’s fitting to describe the journey as a ‘tough row to hoe,’” he said of the farming metaphor used to describe a challenging task. “But it’s been well worth it. We’ve saved farms, helped families, and improved the environment by making sugar more sustainable.”

Needless to say, his father would be proud.

Union Workers to Congress: America’s Sugar Policy Sustains Local Communities

Cornelius Fowler’s message was simple when he walked the halls of Congress this summer.

“If you kill the root, you kill the tree,” he said, “and the sugar industry is the root of the tree in my community.”

Fowler drives a truck hauling farm equipment for the Florida Crystals Okeelanta Sugar Mill in western Palm Beach County. His father and grandfather worked at the mill.

He was among the group of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) members who traveled to Washington recently to explain why America’s sugar policy is critical to rural communities.

“If there’s no sugar policy, we have no future, no job, no home,” Fowler explained.

The no-cost policy is part of the Farm Bill, which Congress passed last year. It exists due to subsidies and trade-distorting policies around the globe, and it helps U.S. farmers and sugar businesses survive amid price volatility.

The American industry employs 142,000 people in 22 states in mostly rural communities. Direct annual wages and benefits for the industry add up to nearly $1.2 billion – a figure that increases to $4.2 billion when economy-wide impacts are included.

Fowler is raising 5 children with his union job at Florida Crystals. It offered him job training, good pay, a pension and benefits. His son, the oldest, is considering medical school.

Union members met with about 30 lawmakers or their staff representatives during the visit. Most of the lawmakers were freshmen and new to sugar policy.

“A lot of people don’t get to visit Congress,” Fowler said. “Being able to sit down with them and tell them your story. Tell them exactly what your community, and your job, means to you.”

Joaquin Almazan, another IAM member, and worker at the Okeelanta Sugar Mill, was on the trip with Fowler. He’s a second-generation machinist, joining his father in the business. His son is now working at the mill.

“It has meant a good living for us,” he told the members he met with. “We have been able to put my daughter through college and buy a house. We have good health care and money for vacations. It’s everything to us.”

U.S. sugar policy, Almazan said, creates sustainable communities around Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. The money from sugar jobs is spent locally at other businesses and funds public infrastructure like schools and hospitals.

His sister works for a local business that might not exist without the good-paying union jobs at the mill.

“If I lose my job, she probably loses hers because most of us in town can’t afford to support local businesses without a sugar paycheck,” he noted.

Similar sentiments were shared by Carol Howard, a union worker with U.S. Sugar’s railroad that hauls sugar from Florida fields to factory. She joined Fowler and Almazan on Capitol Hill.

“I followed in my father’s footsteps when I started at the company more than a decade ago. Now my son now works here, and I have several family members working at U.S. Sugar,” she said. “Sugar has sustained my whole family, and it’s important that I help support the policy that sustains the industry.”

A strong bond with a unionized workforce isn’t isolated to cane companies, either. Half of America’s sugar comes from sugarbeets and 100 percent of beet factories are unionized. In addition to IAM, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; International Longshore and Warehouse Union; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union; Service Employees International Union; United Food and Commercial Workers International Union; Sugar Workers Union; and International Longshoremen’s Association all represent employees in the sugar industry.

These union workers receive strong salaries, a competitive benefits package, tuition, and certification reimbursement, and diversified safe workplaces.

It’s no wonder then that the international president of IAM – as well as leaders from several of other unions – weighed in so aggressively during Congress’ recent Farm Bill debate.  As IAM explained in a letter to all House members:

U.S. sugar farmers and sugar workers deserve a level playing field and should not be forced to compete with farmers subsidized and supported by foreign governments whether by direct loans, cash incentives or foreign ethanol programs.

U.S. sugar policy supports good union jobs in rural and urban areas of the country. The U.S Congress should not support outsourcing these jobs to countries with low labor and environmental standards.

Simply put, organized labor’s message is crystal clear.  U.S. sugar policy maintains good-paying jobs at home and that’s key to the survival of our communities.

Florida Sugar Producers Give a Hoot About Pest Control

The sugarcane fields of south Florida are home to more than just high-quality sugar.

The tall stalks provide a habitat to countless creatures that call the region home. Birds, reptiles, and small mammals all live in the farm fields, sharing their habitat with humans who grow cane.

It’s been like this since sugarcane was commercially cultivated in the region nearly a century ago.

And farmers in the area, by nature, love the environment and the animals it sustains. The soil, sun and rain in Florida bring to life the crops they raise. Protecting that environment is just as important to sugarcane farmers as the crop that flourishes in Florida.

But some of the critters that live among the stalks can cause problems for sustainable and efficient cane harvesting. Rats and mice chew on the stalks, often damaging a significant percentage of the crop.

That means farmers had to spend time and energy working to protect their crops from the pests. In the past, they’ve used the same methods you might use at home to rid your property of rodents. But those methods were expensive and, in some cases, inefficient. Traditional applications used to combat rodents required multiple treatments and would dissolve and become ineffective with rain.

Enter the barn owl – and a widespread local sustainable farming practice that got its start from a humble high school science fair project back in 1994.

As that project noted, barn owls native to the Florida sugar area love to nest in tight spaces, like the rafters and eaves of barns. They also eat mice – by the thousands. And the fact that a pair of owls were shown to eat as many as 5,000 rodents in a year was music to the sugarcane farmers’ ears.

Dr. Richard Raid, of the University of Florida, took that science fair project and expanded it to what has become a great method for controlling rodents in cane fields. His work even won him a special achievement award from the World Owl Hall of Fame in 2019.

Since Dr. Raid expanded upon the local science project, thousands of local students have built barn owl boxes and installed them in sugarcane fields.

The first-generation wooden boxes have been replaced with plastic boxes because bees also found them to be a good home. The bees disturbed the owls and presented a danger for workers. The bees don’t seem to like the plastic boxes, but the owls do.

Florida Crystals Corporation and the independent growers in the area are big believers in the project, using barn owl boxes in most of their fields.

“We basically upgraded from wooden birdhouses to sturdier condos,” says Marianne Martinez, the company’s vice president of corporate communications.

Moramay Naranjo, principal scientist, is over the project at Florida Crystals.

The most recent owl census showed of the 126 boxes, 92 of those currently contain nesting owls. Naranjo is measuring the ability of the owls to control rodents and has plans to expand.

Naranjo says using the owls is a win-win for farmers and the environment.

“I’m so excited,” she says. “I am helping those families of owls. They have a cute and unique face. I feel so proud because we are helping everything – the ecosystem, the environment and at the same time we are protecting our farms.”

And that is what sustainability is all about.

Minnesota Farmers Leading Phosphorous Fight

Phosphorus is a naturally-occurring nutrient that is essential for plant life. But, it can be bad for our waterways by causing algal blooms which results in depleted oxygen in the water, which in turn harms plants and wildlife and can disrupt the ecosystem.

Maintaining clean and healthy waterways is a top priority for the sugar industry, which is why the farmers of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) have taken action to help stamp out the effects of phosphorus.

And their efforts have garnered praise from conservationists and regulators alike.

In 1999, the SMBSC looked to increase the production capabilities of their factory in Renville, Minnesota, approximately 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Because sugar beets are approximately 75 percent water, processing more than 2 million tons of sugar beets a season requires the successful management of more than a million gallons of water a day. A new wastewater treatment plant was necessary.

In an effort to minimize phosphorus levels in the Minnesota River Basin, SMBSC worked in conjunction with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency during the permitting process to develop a plan to offset potential discharges from their wastewater treatment plant.

For every pound of possible phosphorus released, SMBSC would ensure that 2.6 pounds of nonpoint source pollution does not enter the waterways.

Unlike point source pollution, where contaminants enter the water at an identifiable point such as a factory, nonpoint source pollution occurs when rain runoff or drainage sweeps pollutants into water sources.

This type of pollution is responsible for most of the excess phosphorus found in Minnesota waterways. In fact, a 2004 study prepared for the Minnesota State Legislature found that “nonpoint sources of phosphorus account for 69 percent of the phosphorus entering Minnesota surface waters.” And of that amount, an estimated 25 percent of phosphorus came from cropland runoff.

“As farmers, we have a sincere respect for the resources that have been gifted to us,” says Kyle Petersen, chairman of the board for SMBSC. “We are committed to preserving a sustainable and healthy natural environment and knew that we had to take action to defend our waterways.”

As part of that commitment, SMBSC created incentives for farmers and cattle ranchers to reduce phosphorus pollution from nonpoint sources.

SMBSC worked with their more than 500 farmer shareholders to encourage the use of cover crops to minimize soil erosion caused by wind or rainfall and greatly reduce cropland runoff.

More than 75 percent of SMBSC growers now use a cover crop on their sugar beet fields. Not only are they taking strides to protect the environment, but SMBSC growers have found that cover crops protect the emerging beet plants and improve soil health, leading to an increased yield.

The cooperative has also worked with a local cattle company to stabilize a streambank and put into place measures to restrict cattle from entering the water and reduce pollution.

Not content to simply meet their goals, SMBSC has remained well below the phosphorus release limit established by their permit while exceeding their stated phosphorus reduction commitment.

SMBSC has been credited with preventing more than twice as much phosphorus from entering Minnesota surface waters as required by their permit. In total, that’s a reduction of more than 219,000 pounds of phosphorus.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency estimates that between 2000 and 2014, Minnesota reduced phosphorus in the Mississippi River Basin by 33 percent, with 8 percent being attributed to cropland best management practices.

We are proud to be leading the fight against nutrient pollution in the Minnesota River Basin,” says Steven Domm, President and CEO of SMBSC. “We work and live in this community and realize that preserving it for future generations is a shared responsibility.

These efforts have rightly won accolades from environmental groups and have been highlighted as an example of best practices for other facilities to follow.

Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) – a Minnesota non-profit dedicated to protecting the Upper Minnesota River Watershed – awarded SMBSC with CURE’s first “good business award” for their work in reducing pollutants. And the USDA Office of the Chief Economist has highlighted SMBSC’s efforts in a “Farm of the Future” profile.

SMBSC continues to be on the forefront of sustainable nutrient management practices. Through their work to raise awareness of the issues surrounding phosphorus pollution, their efforts to maintain healthy waterways will continue to have big impacts in Minnesota and beyond.

Visit SugarSustainably.org to learn more about how sugar farmers and workers are producing sugar sustainably.

Indian Sugar Subsidies Sink Global Prices

The Wall Street Journal recently published a must-read article clearly articulating how foreign-government intervention drives wild price fluctuations in the international sugar market. The article rightfully identifies India as one of the most egregious offenders, helping “push prices toward their lowest level in a decade”:

The drop extends a two-year stretch in which depressed prices have squeezed profits at sugar refineries, hurt farmers whose livelihoods depend on the crop and led to tensions between nations that are major producers. A big part of the decline stems from India, which overtook Brazil as the world’s biggest grower of sugar in the 2018-19 season, producing 33.1 million tons.

Generous past subsidies, estimated to have valued about $1.7 billion per year, have fueled a sugar surplus that the government is now seeking to offload onto the world dump market. The Wall Street Journal continues:

Bumper harvests have swelled India’s sugar stockpiles to around 17.6 million tons, according to the USDA. The prospect of these being sold on international markets has weighed on global prices for much of the year.

Many participants in the sugar market expect the Indian government to renew an export subsidy program for refineries in the coming weeks, albeit with some tweaks. The policy, introduced last year, contributed to a 52% rise in exports and has drawn ire from rival producers. The World Trade Organization is investigating complaints by Australia, Brazil and Guatemala that the subsidies are illegal.

Just days later, India’s government decided to renew its export subsidy program, announcing it will dole out nearly $880 million in subsidies to incentivize the export of 6 million tonnes of sugar in the 2019/20 marketing year which begins on October 1. Sugar mills will receive an export subsidy of 10,448 rupees – or nearly $145 – per tonne of sugar.

International reaction was swift as Brazil and Australia condemned the latest round of subsidies, with one industry leader in Australia branding India’s decision “a massive market distortion.”  Bloomberg stated that the “subsidies are just another blow to the market that’s already suffering from oversupply.”

Amazingly, it appears that the Indian sugar industry wanted even more government assistance. An anonymous sugar miller expressed their disappointment to Reuters, saying, “We were expecting more than 12,000 rupees [$167] per tonne subsidy considering the drop in global prices.”

A drop in global prices driven in large part by India’s ever-expanding portfolio of government subsidies.

Due to government intervention, the economics of the world market are almost completely divorced from normal market signals and prices have fallen well below the cost of production. It’s increasingly clear that this is an unsustainable trend.

Faced with the volatility of the world market, America’s no-cost sugar policy helps level the playing field for our farmers and secures a stable supply of high-quality sugar for food manufacturers and consumers.

But America’s sugar industry is proud to be among the most efficient producers in the world and would like to compete in a free market. That is why we will continue to call on Congress to seek the elimination of all foreign sugar subsidies by passing Congressman Yoho’s Zero-for-Zero legislation. Dismantling all market-distorting subsidy programs will be the only way to truly establish a free and fair market for sugar.

Until then, we will continue to shine a spotlight on the foreign subsidies destroying the global market.

Congressman Vela: Diversity of Ag Committee Benefits Farmers Everywhere

The chairman of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over farm commodity programs said yesterday that the unique perspectives and bipartisanship of his panel help it function well for U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“The demographic and geographic diversity inside the House Agriculture Committee make it special,” Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX) said at yesterday’s International Sweetener Symposium.

Each member has different experiences and priorities to share, which ensures that farm policies work better for the whole agricultural industry, not just a handful of crops, according to Vela, who chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. And working with growers of all shapes, sizes, and specialties is a priority for the panel, he said.

“We held our first hearing back in May, and we brought in farmers from all around the country to talk about the general conditions of the farm economy,” he said. “What we learned is that no matter where they came from – we had farmers from California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida and elsewhere – folks are having a very difficult time.”

Some growers are being hit hard by overseas tariffs that have dried up markets, he explained. Others have struggled with weather disasters, are experiencing mounting financial pressures, and have faced losses that traditional risk management tools are not equipped to cover.

Vela said Congress was fortunate to pass the 2018 Farm Bill when it did, because delayed action would have left farmers with fewer tools to weather the storm. That bill included a continuation of America’s no-cost sugar policy, which Vela said is critically important to sugarcane farmers in his district.

“With respect to sugar policy…the approach of leaving well enough alone is the right approach,” he explained. The policy operates without taxpayer cost, and Vela said that he would continue to lead efforts to rebuff any political attacks on sugar farmers in the future.

Similar sentiments about sugar policy were made by lawmakers throughout this week’s meetings, which underscores the thesis of Vela’s speech. Members of the Agriculture Committee are listening to the priorities of their colleagues and are reaching across the aisle to come together on behalf of all farmers, not just those in their districts.

EU Sugar Reform Transferring Billions from Farmers and Taxpayers to Food Processors

After more than a decade of transition, Europe’s sugar policy reform is finally complete, and it is transferring $2.5 billion a year in wealth from farmers and EU taxpayers to food processors, with no discernible benefit to grocery shoppers.

That’s according to Patrick Chatenay, a European sugar market expert from the United Kingdom who spoke at today’s International Sweetener Symposium.

Some critics of America’s no-cost sugar policy point to the EU as a model for change, but Chatenay warns that there are valuable lessons to be considered from Europe’s experience.

“Domestic and foreign subsidies destroy competitive industries,” he said, “Europe is still wrestling with the effects of both and these subsidies are distorting Europe’s market.”

Even after reform, European sugar farmers are still receiving nearly $700 million a year in subsidies to keep production up, and that is fueling some inefficiency, according to Chatenay. He explained that most of these subsidies are going to producers in the least efficient areas, while the most efficient producers are receiving no sugar-specific help and are going out of business.

Meanwhile, Europe is now exposed to the artificially-low sugar prices found on the heavily subsidized world market. Subsidies in Brazil, India, Thailand and elsewhere have generated a glut of surplus sugar that has pushed prices well below average production costs.

That’s imperiling even Europe’s efficient sugar businesses and farms without lowering overall food costs in the region. Plummeting sugar prices are being absorbed by industrial buyers, such as candy and snack companies, without being passed along to EU consumers, Chatenay said.

Europe was forced to overhaul its sugar policies after the World Trade Organization found its use of export subsidies and other programs to be in violation of international trade rules. And the rocky road that Europe experienced transitioning to a liberalized market is also an important consideration, Chatenay told the audience.

“Eighty-three sugar mills were closed, some 150,000 farms gave up growing sugarbeets, and tens of thousands sugar-related jobs were lost with the initial reform,” he said. “The latest reform will increase these losses because of the resulting low-price environment.”

Chatenay’s presentation mirrored a study he published in June about the effects of Europe’s changes.

U.S. sugar producers receive loans that are repaid with interest when their sugar is sold, rather than EU-style direct subsidy payments, and are wary of repeating Europe’s mistakes. They have endorsed a strategy known as the Zero-for-Zero sugar policy, which looks to simultaneously reform subsidies globally instead of unilateral disarmament.

N.C. Congressman Urges Agriculture to Speak Proudly with One Voice

Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC) predicted significant turnover during the 2020 congressional election, and he encouraged agriculture to use the opportunity to work together to educate new lawmakers about the industry’s importance to America’s future.

“Agriculture is a bright spot, and we need to talk more about what we do,” he said at today’s International Sweetener Symposium. “A country that can feed itself and feed the rest of the world is in a dominant position to be prosperous at home and strong abroad.”

Agriculture is an economic powerhouse that creates jobs, provides opportunities in rural communities, and embodies the values that make America great, said Rouzer, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. But not everyone in Congress will understand its importance unless farmers and ranchers speak proudly about their successes and fight for their interests.

Rouzer noted that agriculture’s future success will depend on good farm policies with bipartisan appeal, as well as unity throughout the farm and ranch community. The overwhelming support of the 2018 Farm Bill, he said, was emblematic of what agriculture can accomplish when everyone comes together for the common good of all.

“It’s so critically important for us to remain united with one voice and remain active politically,” he said, explaining that the geographic diversity that agriculture possesses is an asset that can mobilize elected officials from both parties across the country.

Sugar is a good example of the power of a large geographic footprint, he said, because it brings together lawmakers from Midwestern sugarbeet states and sugarcane in the South. It’s little wonder, Rouzer noted, that no-cost U.S. sugar policy remains a fixture in the farm safety net.

“Hanging together and speaking with one voice is critically important to [sugar producers’] ability to protect your interests long term,” he concluded. “As long as I’m in the House, you’ve got a friend here and you always will.”

U.S. Sugar Producers Recognize Retiring Roberts, Conaway

America’s farmers and ranchers were blessed during the last Farm Bill debate to be represented by Congressional leaders who worked well together and were determined to pass a farm bill on time and get it signed into law.

Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Mike Conaway (R-TX) were emblematic of how much Congress can achieve when people come together for a common cause.

Last week, Conaway announced that he will not seek reelection in 2020, joining Roberts, who announced earlier this year that he would retire in 2020.

“America’s sugar producers owe these two men a debt of gratitude,” Ryan Weston, chairman of the American Sugar Alliance, said this week at the industry’s annual convention. “We’ve faced tremendous challenges in recent years – from low prices to bad weather and rampant foreign subsidization – but thanks to our champions on Capitol Hill, we survived and continued to thrive.”

Both Roberts and Conaway have addressed the sugar industry at past conventions, Weston explained, saying, “we always knew that these two would put American farmers first, because that’s exactly what they have always done throughout their careers.”

Conaway, who addressed the International Sweetener Symposium in 2016 and 2017, was clearly a vocal supporter of America’s no-cost sugar policy.

“Sugar policy, for me, is easy to defend,” he explained to a roomful of sugar farmers who traveled to Idaho for the convention three years ago. “It works…it works for the American taxpayer, and more importantly it works for the American sugar producer.”

Roberts addressed the International Sweetener Symposium in 2015, telling farmers that he had “no intention of reopening and re-debating the farm bill,” thus preserving U.S. sugar policy.

Weston wished both Roberts and Conaway a happy retirement from Congress and said the industry is eager to work with Members who take on their leadership roles with the Senate and House Agriculture Committees in the next Congress.

“Our challenges aren’t going away,” he concluded. “Times are very tough in rural America right now and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Senator Stabenow and Congressman Peterson along with the next generation of Republican Committee leaders.”

Congressman Richard Hudson Proud to Support America’s Sugar Farmers

“I’m proud to stand tall with [U.S. sugar producers] every single day …and I appreciate what you stand for.” That was the message Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC) delivered at today’s International Sweetener Symposium.

Hudson, who co-chairs the Agriculture and Rural America Task Force, said America’s sugar industry supports thousands of U.S. farmers, thousands of U.S. workers, and billions in goods and services to the U.S. economy. So, supporting a strong U.S. sugar policy was an easy decision for him in the last Farm Bill.

“I want my sugar made here in America,” he explained, noting that he’s worked hard to defeat past attempts to weaken the country’s no-cost sugar policy.

“It would have crushed our domestic industry,” he said of a 2018 Farm Bill amendment designed to gut U.S. sugar policy and outsource our sugar production. “Foreign countries are subsidizing their industries, dumping their sugar, and bottoming out prices…that’s not a free market.”

That anti-farmer amendment was soundly defeated, which Hudson credits to the hard work of sugar producers, farm policy’s bipartisanship, and the solidarity of the agricultural community.

Agriculture is the top industry in North Carolina and in Hudson’s district. He emphasized the importance of agriculture continuing to work closely together to overcome current economic challenges and future political fights.

“I’ve worked hard to be a partner with you and everyone else in our agriculture community,” he concluded. “I strive to be someone you can count on, and I look forward to continuing that partnership.”

Farm Returns Below 2% for Fifth Straight Year as Rural Economy Slumps

The average rate of return for U.S. farmers is 1.3 percent this year, marking the fifth straight year of returns below 2 percent, Dr. John Newton, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said today at the International Sweetener Symposium.

That translates to a negative median farm income of -$1,449 this year, forcing most producers to depend on a growing amount of off-farm income to make ends meet. Returns this low create challenges for agriculture – from keeping pace with rising input costs to repaying operating loans – and the impact ripples throughout the rural economy, he said.

“Commercial debt in agriculture is at record highs, loan delinquency rates are rising, and Chapter 12 bankruptcies have increased sharply,” Newton told the group. “Some major lenders are reducing their exposure to agricultural loans and reducing lending volumes.”

Brian Cavey, senior vice president of government affairs for CoBank, said his bank continues to be a major agricultural lender, with 100 percent of its business focused on farm credit, agribusiness lending, and rural infrastructure.  But he agreed that current tailwinds in the rural economy are troubling.

“Right now, the name of the game is managing risk and uncertainty,” Cavey said.

This kind of environment necessitates strong farm policies to give lenders confidence that loans will be repaid in a timely manner. Protecting crop insurance and opposing cuts to the farm safety net are top priorities for CoBank, he explained.

The company was one of the biggest champions of America’s no-cost sugar policy during the recent Farm Bill debate for that reason.

The National Farmers Union, like the AFBF, was another vocal supporter of sugar policy and its president, Roger Johnson, explained that keeping sugar policy strong will be key to weathering the current storm.

“Farmers are facing an uncertain future, and they need some long-term predictability,” Johnson concluded. “With continued low commodity prices and the impacts that current trade disputes are having on rural America, the real question that we need to be asking ourselves is how to strengthen farm policy even more.”

Glenn Thompson Outlines His Top Priorities for Ag Committee

Congressman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (PA), the second highest ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, kicked off the 2019 International Sweetener Symposium this morning by telling sugar producers that his vision for the Committee’s future is to “achieve a robust rural economy.”

“This requires the right farm policy for all our commodities, including sugar, that exceeds the expectations of our farm families,” he said. “If we can exceed your expectations, then rural America is going to do quite well.”

Thompson, who is the Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, explained that he would continue to be a vocal supporter and champion for the country’s sugar producers.

Sugar policy is part of the 2018 Farm Bill and attempts to weaken it by a handful of opponents during debate on the House floor were summarily rejected thanks to Thompson and others.

“We defeated efforts to repeal the sugar program with a remarkable 141-vote margin,” he said. “That type of decisive [vote] should resolve once and for all that our current U.S. sugar policy is good for both the American consumer and for our hardworking sugar producing farm families.”

Thompson thanked the audience for their efforts to help secure a Farm Bill that was passed on-time, and he pledged to continue to fight attempts to weaken sugar policy in the next Farm Bill.

No-cost sugar policy, which is based on loans that are repaid with interest, is particularly important given the heavily subsidized nature of foreign sugar production, he noted.

In addition to maintaining a strong farm safety net, Thompson outlined other areas that he thinks are important for the House Agriculture Committee and Congress as a whole.

“The greatest challenges before agriculture are regulatory reform and resolving trade agreements,” Thompson explained. “Tackling both of those areas will help our farmers compete on a level playing field.”

Thompson also pointed to rural development and expanded educational opportunities as key to helping small towns rebound from current economic challenges and thrive.

World Sugar Prices Hit Rock Bottom, Poised for Recovery

The world sugar market, which has been battered by low prices, may soon get a reprieve, according to the head of the International Sugar Organization.

Jose Orive, the group’s executive director, addressed the International Sweetener Symposium today and said, “World sugar prices have hit bottom, and signs are pointing to a recovery.”

That’s good news for global farmers who have been struggling with prices as low as 12 cents per pound – well below the average cost of producing sugar. To survive falling prices, many foreign governments have increased subsidies, which has only increased overproduction.

“The world is still suffering from high accumulated stocks that will need to be absorbed by the market before we can see any improvement on price,” Orive explained. But he is optimistic because production from big sugar suppliers appears to be declining, which will let stocks fall.

Brazil, the world’s biggest exporter, has seen production fall rapidly since 2017/18.  Production by the second biggest exporter, Thailand, is also down as farmers switched to alternative crops. Europe, another major producer and exporter, has also devoted fewer acres to beet production this year.

However, Orive warned that there are factors that could quickly change the outlook.

“Weather could provoke production variations, while consumption growth is declining as the war against sugar continues,” he said. “Government policies will continue, mainly for political reasons.”

India, now the world’s biggest sugar producer, is a prime example of the rapid impact policy changes can have on the market.

There, farmers are guaranteed prices for their crops and these price guarantees have continued to climb despite downward market signals. These cane prices combined with export quotas and subsidies are all being challenged in the World Trade Organization for violating international rules.

“The global sugar market is the most distorted commodity market in the world because of subsidies,” noted Jack Roney, a U.S. sugar industry official who moderated the panel. “Today’s low prices are a result of these subsidies, and any bullish signals can be quickly undone by government intervention.”

Roney said the extreme volatility of the world market is the reason America has a sugar policy, and he urged governments around the world to put an end to competing subsidies.

“U.S. farmers are highly efficient, and we want to operate in a free market, but that cannot happen until all countries set aside their subsidies and let a real market form,” he concluded.

India Doubles Down on Trade-Distorting Export Subsidies

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

India has a massive sugar problem. It will have 17-million-metric-tons more sugar than what it consumes this year, according to a recent USDA report. USDA notes the 17 million tons is more than double India’s minimum annual stock requirements. And India’s sugar mills are finding it difficult to sell this surplus sugar at a profit.

Seemingly undeterred by three separate challenges at the World Trade Organization regarding its use of an array of market-distorting subsidies, India is considering utilizing more export subsidies in an effort to reduce sugar stocks and settle outstanding payments to cane farmers.

Bloomberg reports:

India plans to bolster efforts to boost sugar exports and help beleaguered mills in defiance of criticism from Brazil and Australia that its existing subsidies are keeping global prices low and hurting their farmers. The government may reimburse exporters some ocean freight and marketing expenses, according to people familiar with the proposal, who asked not to be identified as it isn’t public.

These new payments are an unwelcome addition to India’s already long list of trade-distorting practices – including the use of cane subsidies and subsidized and preferential loans – that have encouraged overproduction and contributed to depressed prices on the global sugar market. They have created a problem in their domestic market and by dumping sugar below the cost of production on the world market created problems that threaten sugar producers world-wide.

As one opinion writer recently emphasized in the Indian newspaper, The Hindu Business Line, “this situation is entirely [India’s] own making:”

In a bid to please the sugarcane farmers, an important vote bank in States such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh (UP), successive governments have announced [a] high cane price. Over the years this has resulted in a huge mismatch between the prices of sugarcane and other crops. Today, sugarcane fetches 60 per cent higher returns than any other competing crop. Assured of both price and market, farmers prefer sugarcane even if they periodically face significant delay in receiving payment.

Sugar surplus is bad for everyone. It depresses the prices apart from affecting the cash flow of the mills. They struggle to pay the farmers and as arrears mount the government is forced to step in and help the mills clear the dues through relief packages.

The bitter truth is that doubling down on export subsidies will only continue to drive distortions in the global sugar market. Prohibiting direct and indirect export subsidies must be the first step to fixing the most distorted and volatile commodity market in the world.

That’s why the U.S. sugar industry support’s Congressman Ted Yoho’s Zero-for-Zero sugar policy, which eliminates all global subsidies and allows America’s efficient sugar producers to compete on a level playing field. Only with a Zero-for-Zero sugar policy will a true free market have an opportunity to thrive.

European Union Serves as Warning to US Sugar Policy Critics

new report analyzing the impact of sugar policy liberalization in the European Union (EU) should serve as a dire warning to those who would like the United States to follow the EU’s lead and unilaterally eliminate U.S. sugar policy without addressing subsidies on the world stage.

This week marks 13 years since the EU first began tearing down its sugar program after the World Trade Organization found it to be in violation of its international trade commitments. Since that time, Europe’s sugar industry has faced an uncertain future – 83 sugar mills closed and 120,000 jobs were lost – and subsidies remain prevalent as prices plummet below the cost of production.

Authored by UK-based sugar policy expert Patrick Chatenay, this report takes a closer look at EU sugar market conditions following the latest chapter in EU’s reform: the end of sales quotas and minimum prices for sugar in October 2017.

“The immediate effects of liberalization have been catastrophic for the EU sugar industry,” Chatenay writes.

Chatenay found that now exposed to the oversupplied and chronically depressed global sugar market, driven by foreign subsidies, sugar farmers have seen an approximately 20 percent drop in prices while large industrial sugar buyers have pocketed $3.4 billion, “with no discernable advantage to the final consumer.”

This transfer of wealth from farmers to food processors has necessitated additional taxpayer subsidies to help prop up Europe’s farmers.  Totaling nearly $700 million a year, EU subsidies have further distorted Europe’s sugar market and driven prices even lower, according to Chatenay.

“EU sugar now operates with fluctuating, distorted and most often depressed world market prices, influenced by widespread government interventions,” the report states. “Not only must its most efficient producers compete with foreign subsidized sugar, but they also face competition from subsidies directed to [less efficient] EU beet areas.”

And this unfair competition is further threatening efficient EU producers and forcing them to cut costs by shuttering factories. Chatenay quoted one official as saying that “10 to 20 sugar [EU] factories will close within 5 years, given that about one-fifth of the EU mills are not competitive.”

Europe’s failed experiment over the past decade should serve as a stark warning to critics of U.S. sugar policy, say officials from America’s industry.

“Europe is often held up as a model for sugar reform, but the facts tell a much different story,” said American Sugar Alliance Chairman Ryan Weston. “European taxpayers continue to spend millions propping up the sugar industry while farmers face bankruptcy. Simply put, unilateral disarmament doesn’t work. A free sugar market will only be realized when every nation agrees to put an end to unfair subsidies that threaten highly efficient U.S. producers”

A recent report released by Texas Tech University put into perspective the harm that widespread government intervention has had on the global sugar market. The report profiled 22 foreign countries, accounting for 80 percent of global sugar production, and documented the widespread use of government support, tariffs, and subsidies that contribute to an unpredictable market.

Conversely, American sugar farmers do not receive government subsidy checks. U.S. sugar policy is based on the use of loans to store sugar until customers need it and then the loans are repaid with interest. This allows the sugar industry to maintain a reliable and affordable supply of sugar for U.S. manufacturers and consumers alike.

“The EU’s struggle to reform its sugar regime makes it clear that the distorted nature of the global sugar market as it stands will never allow for fair competition,” Weston said. “That is why America’s sugar producers are asking Congress to call a global cease-fire on sugar subsidies by passing Congressman Ted Yoho’s Zero-for-Zero resolution. We look forward to the creation of a truly level playing field.”

New USDA Report Outlines India’s Sugar Subsidies

India’s latest export subsidy scheme blatantly flouts international trade rules, and it’s been receiving lots of attention lately.

Australia, Brazil, and Guatemala have all recently initiated formal proceedings against India under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism. Leaders from Alvean, the world’s biggest sugar trader, singled out Indian subsidies for suppressing global prices. And earlier this month, Texas Tech University released a global sugar subsidy handbook that dedicated considerable space to India’s trade-distorting policies.

“India, a long-time sugar importer, is now making an unprecedented move to supplant Brazil as the world’s dominant supplier,” the Texas Tech study’s author noted in a recent column. “Through export subsidies that appear to be WTO-illegal, soft loans, tariffs, and other new policies, India increased production and more than made up for Brazil’s [production] decline.”

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided updated insights into India’s extensive array of support programs.  Its recently-released annual report about India’s sugar industry outlined several of the country’s subsidies. Among them:

  • Financial aid to sugar mills – $566 million
  • Subsidies to boost exports – $191 million (with approval to grow to $768 million)
  • Costs to run a buffer stock/export program – $171 million
  • Subsidies to cover interest payments on loans – $400 million

And that doesn’t even count the $1.5 billion in preferential loans that the report mentioned, which are designed to help India’s industry cope with low prices amid surpluses. Nor does it include India’s ethanol program, which the USDA report says may benefit from proposed aid to improve production capacity.

India also guarantees high prices for sugarcane to boost farm revenue, making it more profitable than other crops and helping to fuel oversupplies.

With such an intricate web of subsidies one would think India’s industry would be flush right now. Wrong. Even with a generous subsidy system, the inefficient sugar industry is struggling. As the USDA observed:

Currently, sugar sold in international markets is selling at more than 33 percent discount to Indian sugar (wholesale), a gap which widened by 9 percent in the last seven months, driven in part by Indian rupee appreciation of 6 percent (relative to USD). Subsidies and supports have not made Indian sugar competitive on international markets.

And don’t expect the price situation to improve in the short term. The USDA report predicts that surplus stocks will reach a record 17 million metric tons in 2019 – that’s about 6 million tons more than the United States consumes in a year.

Clearly, India’s system is broken. It’s time for reform. It’s time for all countries to eliminate the subsidies wrecking the global sugar market. It’s time for a Zero-for-Zero sugar policy that prioritizes business smarts over subsidies.

Texas Tech Releases New Global Sugar Subsidy Guide

U.S. trade negotiators and lawmakers gained access to a helpful resource about foreign agricultural policy today when Texas Tech University unveiled a report on global sugar subsidies.

The study – authored by Dr. Darren Hudson, director of the school’s International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness – included profiles of 22 foreign countries that account for 80 percent of global sugar production and 83 percent of exports.

He examined major market players like Brazil, India, and Thailand, as well as those with which America is currently engaged in trade talks, including China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union.

“There’s one common thread connecting every country,” Hudson said. “They all subsidize their own country’s sugar production to the detriment of others.”

This, he explained, has made sugar one of the world’s most distorted commodity markets. And to protect their domestic sugar industries from the associated price volatility, countries are creating more and more subsidies, which is adding to the oversupply and depressing prices further.

“Government intervention in the world sugar market remains extreme and widespread with a wide variety measures to support domestic sugar producers,” read the report.

Tariffs were a commonality among all countries in the Texas Tech report, with some in excess of 100 percent. Domestic price supports, debt forgiveness, and handouts for inputs such as fertilizer and equipment were also widespread. Ethanol programs that subsidize the use of sugar as a feedstock act as a price support and are gaining in popularity, the report found.

Brazil has long been the world’s biggest sugar producer, riding an estimated $2.5 billion in annual subsidies to a dominate share of the global market. But their dominance is being challenged by India, which has dramatically increased government support and exports in recent years.

An export subsidy, supply controls, tariffs, and soft loans were among the new Indian policies the report identified. India, whose supports are estimated at more than $1.7 billion a year, is currently being challenged by several countires at the World Trade Organization for excessive subsidization.

The United States is not included in the report. U.S. sugar policy – a combination of import quotas and loans repaid with interest – operates without taxpayer cost and exists as a response to foreign subsidies.

The U.S. sugar industry has publicly endorsed a concept introduced by Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL), known as the Zero-for-Zero sugar policy, which would end America’s no-cost policy in exchange for other countries eliminating their trade-distorting programs and letting a true free market form.

Sugar Farmers Featured on New Farm Policy Facts Podcast

Farm Policy Facts debuted a new podcast called Groundwork yesterday, and two sugar farmers were the first guests on the show.

John Snyder, of Wyoming, and Travis Medine, of Louisiana, discussed the importance of sugar farming in rural communities with Groundwork host Tom Sell.

The show runs about 18 minutes. You can find it on farmpolicyfacts.org as well as the iTunes store. Groundwork is a monthly series focusing on range of policy issues that are important to American farmers.

The first episode tackled the importance of the Farm Bill and the impact sugar has on the nation’s economy.

Snyder, on the show, noted that sugarbeets and sugarcane support 142,000 jobs in 22 states. He said the global sugar market is heavily subsidized, which necessitates America’s no-cost sugar policy in the Farm Bill. And that policy helps keep people employed in communities where jobs are often scarce.

“It trickles down to the people who work for us on the farms, it trickles down the [businesses] here in town, to the people who do our repairs,” he said. “It’s a huge part of our economy.”

Snyder was one of dozens of sugar farmers recently in Washington, DC, to thank lawmakers for delivering such a strong sugar policy in the 2018 Farm Bill. Sugarcane farmer Travis Medine was also part of that trip to the nation’s capital.

During the podcast, where he discussed the trip, Medine also explained the unusually long return-on-investment in sugarcane. Most people, he said, don’t know that cane is harvested for four years on an initial planting. It’s such an extended timeline that business planning is difficult without the stability provided by the sugar policy in the Farm Bill.

“A lot of people don’t understand that’s a very, very long-term investment,” he said. “It is labor intensive and costly, we have to know that safety net is there.”

Listen to Groundwork for more from Snyder and Medine. Follow the podcast on twitter at #Groundwork.

Volatile Sugar Market Necessitates Strong Sugar Policy

As 2018 came to a close, the USDA published a report about the global sugar market. It noted that the world’s dominant sugar producer (and subsidizer) Brazil was decreasing production because of “unfavorable weather and more sugarcane being diverted towards ethanol,” where prices are stronger.

The 8-million-ton drop in Brazilian production should have been a big market mover, but it wasn’t. Current sugar prices on the world dump market are lower than when the report was published, according to USDA data.

Why? Because the world sugar market is highly unpredictable. It is a dumping ground for subsidized surplus sugar that’s sold well below the global cost of production.

The report went on to note: “Global stocks are forecast to rise to a new high of 53 million metric tons” because of a massive stock building in another major subsidizer, India.

The intense market manipulation by foreign governments makes sugar unlike any other commodity.

Dan Colacicco, a PhD and former USDA sugar policy expert for 20 years, explained this unique dynamic in a presentation to the International Sugarbeet Institute last month.

“International sugar trade grew up in the Mercantile period and has a long history of government intervention,” he told the group. “This widespread intervention by foreign governments makes the price particularly volatile.”

Colacicco, who is a current advisor to the U.S. sugar industry, drove home this point by showing price volatility percentages for several commodities on the world market.  Sugar ranked the highest with a more than 9% volatility factor, whereas staples like corn, wheat, and milk were all under 5%.

Complicating factors in the sugar market, he said, is the fact that “sugar supply is insensitive to price.” Sugarcane, which accounts for about 80% of global sugar production, is a multi-year crop that is hard to exit quickly, and sugar is tough to store until prices improve.

That means surpluses can continue to flood the market even during low-price periods, driving prices even lower.

This reality can punish sugar producers, he said, since “sugar price and producer revenue are very sensitive to supply changes.”

Colacicco demonstrated this by showing the effect of a 10% supply increase on various sectors.

A 10% uptick in supply would sink sugar prices by nearly 30% and producer revenue by more than 26%. For comparison, a similar supply uptick would only affect beef prices by 13% and producer revenue by 12%.

The level of foreign subsidization, mixed with market volatility, and sensitivity to supply change explains why America needs such a strong sugar policy, he noted.

“Without America’s no-cost sugar policy, our farmers and factories would have a hard time surviving in this kind of environment. American food manufacturers and consumers who depend on high quality and sustainable sugar production would also be losers,” Colacicco concluded. “Congress recognized that and should be commended for delivering during the Farm Bill debate.”

Don’t Let Critics Fool You, Sugar Policy Costs $0

Today might be April Fool’s Day, but it’s no joke that federal sugar policy once again cost taxpayers $0 last year.

Even better, the USDA predicts sugar policy will continue to operate at zero cost for the next 10 years.

That means that federal sugar policy cost taxpayers absolutely nothing in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. This is by design, as our sugar policy is based on loans that must be repaid with interest. Not subsidy checks handed out to sugar farmers and producers, as some critics might mislead people into believing.

Only once in the past 15 years has sugar policy incurred a government cost. Mexico violated our trade law in 2013 and dumped subsidized sugar, requiring the USDA to take action to keep the domestic sugar market from collapsing.

But don’t just take our word on the positive benefits of our federal sugar policy.

Congress reaffirmed the importance of a strong sugar policy with the passage of a bipartisan Farm Bill in December 2018. And sugar farmers recently visited Capitol Hill to thank lawmakers and continue to share the importance of sugar policy to both urban and rural communities across the country.

Not to mention, federal sugar policy ensures that manufacturers and consumers alike have access to an affordable supply of high-quality American sugar. U.S. food manufacturers pay 25% less for sugar than companies in other developed countries, and U.S. grocery shoppers pay 22% less than the rest of the developed world.

That means keeping a strong sugar policy in place benefits taxpayers, consumers and our sugar producers. All for $0.

Don’t let anyone fool you – U.S. sugar policy remains a no-cost success story.

Sugar’s Sweet Story – Farmers Share Importance of Sugar with Congress

During the sugar beet harvest, production runs 24 hours a day on Kevin Etzler’s farm in Minnesota. It’s far from an easy job, but sugar farmers take immense pride in providing an affordable and high-quality homegrown product.

But because virtually every one of the 120 foreign countries that produce sugar subsidize their industry in some way, depressing global prices, American sugar farmers rely on our strong federal sugar policy to survive.

“With so many new members of Congress who will be influencing agricultural and trade policy over the next two years, it is important to share with them first-hand the challenges that farmers are facing,” Kevin explains.

So, Kevin took his message directly to Capitol Hill.

Cane and beet farmers spent the last two weeks meeting with hundreds of lawmakers in Washington, DC, sharing their personal stories and thanking them for passing a Farm Bill that protects a strong sugar policy.

For Pete DuFresne, a sugarcane farmer from Louisiana, it is important that Congress understand that a vibrant sugar industry means economic opportunities for communities across America.

“We’ve grown sugar in Louisiana for more than 250 years. And if we didn’t raise sugar, the only thing we’d grow around here is the unemployment line,” Pete says.

The economic security that America’s sugar policy provides comes at zero cost to taxpayers because farmers receive loans they must repay with interest, not subsidy checks.

“Capital is the biggest hurdle to entry in farming – especially today when farm incomes are low.  Lenders will not extend loans to young growers, who lack the equity of our older peers, unless there is confidence of repayment,” Louisiana farmer Travis Medine says. “With our lenders, that confidence comes from the no-cost sugar policy found in the Farm Bill.”

John Snyder from Wyoming emphasizes that U.S. sugar policy has been essential to his survival against unfair foreign competitors. “We need policy, a good solid sugar policy” he says, “You know, we just want a fair shake.”

“We can compete with anybody, but I can’t compete against the Brazilian treasury, or the treasury of India, or Mexico when they were dumping subsidized sugar in our market and the government was paying their growers down there huge amounts of money to do that,” John explains.

Tim Deal from North Dakota agrees: “We cannot take on foreign treasuries and foreign governments and have them dump sugar into the United States. It will bankrupt us.”

Protecting a no-cost program that ensures a sustainable supply of sugar and supports 142,000 American jobs is a no-brainer. Thank you to the sugar farmers who recently made their voices heard by taking to the halls of Congress and educating lawmakers about the importance of U.S. sugar policy.

Learn more about America’s sugar farmers and workers by visiting the Faces of Sugar Policy.

A Strong Sugar Policy Supports American Jobs

Fifty-seven sugar factories have closed since the 1980s due to low prices, contributing to the loss of 100,000 sugar jobs. In fact, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped tracking “sugar manufacturing” as a job category in 2008 due to the industry’s shrinking size.

Thankfully, there are still 142,000 hardworking men and women employed by sugar across 22 states. And the salaries and benefits associated with those sugar jobs pump more than $4.2 billion a year into both rural and urban communities where job opportunities might otherwise be limited, and generate nearly $20 billion in total economic activity each year.

Protecting sugar jobs – many of which are union jobs – and maintaining a strong U.S. sugar policy is the primary message being delivered by dozens of sugarbeet and sugarcane farmers this week on Capitol Hill.

Similar messages were shared by sugar workers across the country as part of theFaces of Sugar Policy campaign:

“It would be hard for me to imagine what this community would be like without sugar. The number of jobs that people would no longer have.”
– Tracy Bentley, Scottsbluff, Nebraska

 “These kinds of jobs are very important to Baltimore and middle-income families. I recommend keeping it going because you want to keep the middle class, the middle class.”
– John Godleski, Baltimore, Maryland

“People stay here. They retire here… I think it means a lot for the community and the company itself, too. It’s a really nice partnership between the company and the community.”
– Walter Aucaylle, Yonkers, New York

The American sugar industry is working hard to maintain high-paying jobs in the United States. We are thankful that Congress recognized the economic importance of our homegrown sugar industry and overwhelmingly supported passage of a strong sugar policy in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The bottom line: supporting our successful sugar policy means protecting good American jobs and the communities that rely on them. That’s something worth fighting for.

Why Is Sugar Policy Important? Just Ask a Sugar Producer

Sugar farmers from coast to coast are in Washington, DC, this week and next to meet with hundreds of lawmakers and thank them for delivering a strong sugar policy in the recently-passed Farm Bill.

For most of the farmers, it’s their first trip back to the Capitol since the Farm Bill was approved, and given the bill’s overwhelming support, there will be many members to thank. There will also be a lot of new members to educate about the importance of maintaining the no-cost sugar policy in the face of a struggling rural economy.

So, what will be the main messages communicated? Look no further than sugar farmers’ and workers’ own words, as quoted on the materials they’ll be handing out.

“Farmers own most of the country’s sugar companies. We’ve literally bet the farm that our businesses will succeed, so we are always striving to improve.”

-Dan Younggren, Hallock, Minnesota
Sugarbeet Farmer

“We’ve grown sugar in Louisiana for more than 250 years. And if we didn’t raise sugar, the only thing we’d grow around here is the unemployment line. It’s sad that some people want to end that history and outsource U.S. sugar production to subsidized foreign industries that use child labor and don’t care about the environment.”

-Pete DuFresne, Paulina, Louisiana
Sugarcane Farmer

“The Domino Sugar Yonkers refinery has operated continuously in this community since 1938. The refinery is a source of pride that contributes millions to the local economy and provides good-paying jobs.”

-Matt Shue, Yonkers, New York
Refinery Manager

“It’s getting harder to make a living in sugar. Production costs keep going up, but sugar prices have barely budged in decades. Hawaii recently stopped growing sugar because of this economic squeeze, and I fear Texas won’t be far behind if U.S. sugar policy is weakened.”

-Leonard Simmons, San Benito, Texas
Sugarcane Farmer

“If sugar is not profitable, farmers lose more than our farms. We lose our businesses, our investments, and our local communities. A strong no-cost sugar policy supports our families and our communities.”

-Galen Lee, New Plymouth, Idaho
Sugarbeet Farmer

“We need the security the Farm Bill offers to keep my family growing for another generation. If my kids choose to farm, I want there to be a business for them to continue that opportunity.”

-Rita Herford, Minden City, Michigan
Sugarbeet Farmer

            If there’s no sugar policy, we have “no land, no future, no job, no home.”

-Cornelius Fowler
IAM Florida Sugar Workers Union

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

2018: Candy Manufacturers’ Expansions and Big News

From record product launches to multimillion-dollar expansions, what a sweet year it was for candy manufacturers.

As consumers’ demand for candy products continues to surge, America’s confectioners are gladly taking advantage of this growing market. And America’s 142,000 sugar farmers and workers are thankful to be a part of their success story.

Ferrero USA saw wild success in 2018 with more than 90 million Kinder Eggs sold in the United States. The president and CEO of Ferrero described this growth as “more dramatic than expected,” necessitating a 67,000-square-foot expansion in New Jersey.

Confectionary powerhouse Mars Wrigley also announced multiple investment projects across the country.

Mars Wrigley broke ground in February on a $30 million, 65,000-square-foot expansion at a plant in Waco, Texas that produces Snickers, Skittles, and Starbursts. A spokesman credited this expansion to the growing popularity of these candy products, saying that “the brands produced in Waco have seen fantastic growth.”

In October, Mars Wrigley announced they would be spending $142 million to invest in personnel and upgrade manufacturing capabilities in Cleveland, Ohio in order to support a brand new product: Hazelnut Spread M&M’s.

And October brought more cheers than scares for Hershey’s when the candy company announced that they expected to hit their first-ever $600 million Halloween season.

These record profits would not be possible without the hard-working men and women who produce America’s sugar under some of the highest labor and environmental standards in the world, setting the gold standard for sustainable sugar production.

And a vibrant U.S. sugar industry would not be possible without a no-cost sugar policy that levels the playing field against market-depressing foreign subsidies.

With all the expansion projects and economic growth, it makes you wonder why Big Candy companies are still complaining about a sugar policy that’s widely supported by Congress.

Here’s hoping that 2019 is as successful as last year for confectioners – and here’s hoping that success extends throughout their entire domestic supply chain.

Big and Small Subsidies in Last Week’s News

The global sugar market remains in turmoil, plagued for years by a subsidy-fueled oversupply. And as foreign sugar businesses struggle to stay afloat, governments around the globe are taking action.

Unfortunately for the market, the action being taken by most governments is to increase subsidies, which further depresses prices. Last week saw two governments – both big and small – intervene.

First for the big news.

India is rapidly expanding sugar production and exports thanks to government market interference. There, government officials have been steadily building upon a $1.7 billion-a-year subsidy system to bolster an inefficient industry.

The most recent announcement came last week as India’s government increased the selling price of sugar in a bid to help mills and farmers who are struggling with surpluses.

The irony of the government mandating a price hike to counter a government-driven oversupply was not lost on Tim Worstall, a columnist for the Continental Telegraph, an online European publication.

“We’ve an industry in oversupply. They’re making too much of the damn stuff. So, to deal with this we’re going to raise the minimum price? But, but, won’t that increase supply, reduce demand, making that oversupply even worse? Well, yes, it will, but you know election year politics….

“Yes, it’s election time, that’s why the Indian government has just raised the price of sugar. So, the money will flow through to the cane farmers who have lots and lots of lovely votes. And that’s it, that’s all there is to it. However stupid it is to raise the price of something already in oversupply.”

It wasn’t just a sugar superpower making news last week, either. Sugar oversupplies and rock-bottom prices are hitting small producers as well. Earlier this month, Kenya announced a direct subsidy of $27 million to sugarcane farmers to help them through this rough patch.

Unfortunately for Kenya’s producers, $27 million won’t even make a dent in the real issue that’s placing them at a disadvantage. Fixing the global subsidy problem and bringing about a fair market that gives all countries a chance to succeed is what’s needed.

That’s exactly what the Zero-for-Zero sugar policy, introduced by Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) in late January, aims to do. It would target foreign subsidies that are wrecking the global market and would roll back America’s no-cost sugar policy once a free market takes shape.

Yoho calls it a subsidy cease fire, and it’s the most refreshing piece of sugar policy news to come out of a government body in some time.

Yoho and his supporters rightly realize that sugar producers and consumers alike will win when we get government out of the global sugar business and let countries compete in terms of efficiency instead of subsidization.

2018: A Year of Subsidies

Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) recently reintroduced his zero-for-zero sugar policy resolution that targets sugar subsidies around the world. As he’s explained before:

Sugar is widely considered the world’s most distorted commodity market. Global sugar prices have fluctuated more than 200 percent since 2008 alone and often fall well below the cost of producing sugar. Why? Because of the actions of a few government-dependent producers….

Congress must look for smart ways to get governments out of private business. That’s why I’ve proposed a legislative solution called the zero-for-zero sugar policy, which has been gaining traction among free marketers and has been hailed as a model for all of U.S. farm policy.

It calls on the elimination of U.S. sugar policy in exchange for the elimination of the foreign subsidies and unfair trading practices that are distorting the global market. It would reward the world’s most efficient producers rather than the most coddled. And it is 100 percent consistent with the smart modernization of U.S. trade policy championed by our new Administration and endorsed by the electorate.

The need for this legislation has never been greater. Subsidized sugar surpluses are stacking up around the globe. Prices on the world sugar market are tanking and today don’t even cover half the average cost of producing sugar.

And foreign governments are doubling down on their subsidies. Consider these recent events that cropped up in 2018:

  • To alleviate the pressure of a subsidy-fueled surplus, the Indian government last year mandated that 5 million metric tons of sugar be exported and sweetened the deal in September by announcing transportation subsidies to offset the cost of bringing sugar to port. Meanwhile, sugar mill owners are asking India to raise the government-set selling price of sugar in order to artificially raise the value of their stockpiles. This is all in addition to the $1.7 billion a year in government handouts already flowing to the industry.
  • Brazil launched a WTO case against India to protect its dominance as a global sugar exporter. Of course, Brazil’s thriving sugar industry would not exist without decades of government intervention and subsidies to the tune of $2.5 billion a year
  • Aided by government subsidies estimated at $1.3 billion annually, Thailand has nearly doubled its production over the past ten years, 75% of which was exported into the world market in 2017/18.
  • Much like India, Pakistan also hoped to control their domestic surplus last year by flooding the world market with cheap government-subsidized sugar. By incentivizing exports through $194 million worth of subsidies, the Pakistani government only served to further destabilize the world sugar market.

Enough is enough. It’s time to get foreign governments out of the sugar business, and Yoho’s sugar policy is the right recipe. That’s why the American Sugar Alliance, and the 142,000 U.S. farmers and workers it supports, is urging lawmakers to co-sponsor this common-sense solution.

Sugar Producers Praise Reintroduction of Zero-for-Zero Legislation

Members of the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) praised Congressman Ted Yoho (R-FL) for taking decisive action against foreign sugar subsidies with yesterday’s reintroduction of the Zero-for-Zero sugar policy.

Zero-for-Zero proposes dropping America’s no-cost sugar policy in exchange  for the verified elimination of foreign sugar subsidies.

H.Con.Res. 7 details how foreign subsidies distort the international sugar market and hold prices well below the average cost of producing sugar. It specifically highlights Brazil, India, Thailand, Europe and Mexico for their egregious abuse of direct and indirect subsidies.

The billions spent by foreign nations stand in stark contrast to America’s sugar policy, which costs taxpayers $0 because it’s based on loans that are repaid with interest.

“America’s sugar producers are among the most efficient in the world, but it’s hard to compete with the treasuries of foreign countries,” said Ardis Hammock, a farmer from Clewiston, FL. “It will be impossible to establish a true free market in sugar unless these unfair subsidies are eliminated, and Zero-for-Zero recognizes that basic fact.”

Ardis grows sugarcane with her husband and son on a farm that’s been in her family for three generations. She’s proud of what her family has accomplished over the past 100 years but is worried about the future as prices remain low and foreign governments fuel overproduction. 

“Our no-cost sugar policy gives us a fighting chance to survive until reform to the world market materializes,” she said. “Congressman Yoho’s plan is common-sense legislation that says we’re not going to let foreign cheaters run hardworking Americans out of business.”

Unilaterally eliminating or weakening the current U.S. sugar policy without concessions from foreign nations would collapse the domestic sugar market, endangering 142,000 industry jobs and putting consumers at risk of foreign dependence.  

The American Sugar Alliance urged Congress to move quickly on Yoho’s effort.

Original co-sponsors of the Zero-for-Zero policy include Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Alex Mooney (R-WV).

Top U.S. Trade Negotiator Joins American Sugar Alliance Staff

A trade negotiator with more than three decades of experience, including a key role in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, has joined the American Sugar Alliance as an in-house consultant.

Brian Grunenfelder will work alongside veteran ASA Trade Adviser Don Phillips in helping analyze the complex global trade issues that impact U.S. sugar farmers and shape America’s no-cost sugar policy.

Grunenfelder recently served as the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative in the Office of Agricultural Affairs. In this capacity, he led the U.S.-Japan Trans-Pacific Partnership Agricultural Market Access Group and managed agricultural negotiations with the Republic of Korea, Colombia, and Peru. 

Grunenfelder previously spent more than 25 years within the Foreign Agricultural Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We warmly welcome Brian and are thrilled that he has brought his vast experience in agriculture and trade policy to the American Sugar Alliance,” said Ryan Weston, ASA chairman.

“America’s sugar farmers are increasingly under threat from unfair foreign subsidies and malicious trade practices,” Weston said. “Brian has the expertise to navigate these varied international challenges and will be an invaluable asset in shaping sugar policy here at home.”

Don Phillips, who will work with Grunenfelder to ensure a smooth transition, plans to continue with ASA in a more limited role, primarily focused on serving on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Sweeteners and Sweetener Products at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Don has been a champion for this industry,” Weston added. “He’s guided us through numerous trade negotiations and conflicts, and he’s always done so with class, professionalism, and tremendous leadership. On behalf of 142,000 U.S. sugar farmers and workers, thank you, Don.”