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.”