National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Spend some time in the kitchen as a family and bake up a batch of America’s favorite cookie! Here are some recipes to get you started:

2021 Virtual Board Meeting

 

The American Sugar Alliance welcomes you to join ASA’s virtual annual board meeting, entitled, “U.S. Sugar Industry:  Emerging Stronger than Ever, Preparing for the New Normal,” scheduled for Tuesday, August 3rd, from 10 AM – 1 PM ET. 

Speakers will include ASA leadership and staff; USDA staff responsible for managing the sugar program; former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson; and a lively presentation by keynote speaker Jim Wiesemeyer, the highly respected agriculture political analyst.  We will also have a special tribute to ASA Director of Economics & Policy Analysis Jack Roney who will be retiring after serving the industry for 32 years.

  • State of the AllianceASA Chairman Jack PettusVice President of Government Relations, American Sugar Cane League
  • Market Report: Rob JohanssonASA Associate Director of Economics & Policy Analysis
  • Sugar Program Management Panel:  Barbara Fecso, Branch Chief of the Commodity Analysis Branch, Economic and Policy Analysis Division, Farm Production and Conservation Business Center (FPAC), USDALori TortoraInternational Trade Specialist, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA; and moderator Daniel ColaciccoSugar Analyst, American Sugar Alliance.
  • Legislative Update: Jeff HarrisonCounsel, Combest, Sell & Associates; ASA Legislative Consultant
  • Legislative Reflections: The Honorable Collin Petersonformer Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee 
  • Trade Report: Brian GrunenfelderPartner, Green Field Strategies; ASA Trade Advisor
  • Public Relations Report: Phillip HayesPartner, North Bridge Communications; ASA Director of Media Relations
  • Agriculture Political Landscape: Jim WiesemeyerWashington Analyst, Pro Farmer
  • Special Retirement Tribute: Jack RoneyASA Director of Economics & Policy Analysis

Barbara Fecso

Barbara Fecso is the Branch Chief of the Commodity Analysis Branch, Economic and Policy Analysis Division, Farm Production and Conservation Business Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is responsible for overseeing the administration of the domestic sugar, dairy, livestock, cotton, peanuts, grains and oilseeds programs. Barbara provides guidance to the Secretary of Agriculture on the formulation and implementation of national policies and procedures, as well as economic and budgetary impact analysis of those programs.

Barbara has twenty-five years of government service in USDA with an emphasis on program analysis, operations and budgetary analysis. She initially spent five years with the Natural Resource Conservation Service as a program analyst for conservation technical assistance, watershed, and animal waste management programs. She then spent two years as a wheat and pulse crop analyst at the Farm Service Agency before shifting to sugar. She was named Director of FSA’s Dairy and Sweeteners Analysis branch in 2014 and played a critical role in the negotiation of the current sugar trade agreement with Mexico. In October 2018, she was named Branch Chief under USDA’s reorganization and now oversees 10 economists who cover over 30 commodities, including dairy and the livestock disaster programs.

Barbara received a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University at West Lafayette, Indiana, in 1994. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and lived for almost twenty years in central Illinois.  She has three children and now resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Lori Tortora

Lori Tortora serves as Senior Policy Advisor for Import Programs, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA, where her portfolio includes both the sugar and dairy programs. Prior to assuming this position, she held the position of Senior Trade Advisor in the Multilateral Affairs Division, FAS. Ms. Tortora joined FAS in 2008, and during her tenure has covered a variety of trade policy issues including those related to sanitary and phytosanitary and technical barriers to U.S. agricultural exports. Ms. Tortora has extensive experience working with international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, Codex Alimentarius, etc. Before joining FAS, Ms. Tortora worked for the Columbus McKinnon Corporation in export sales and worked as a contractor for the U.S Military in Kitzingen, Germany. She has a Bachelor of Arts in German Language and Literature and speaks German fluently.

Dr. Dan Colacicco

Dr. Dan Colacicco of Cicco Commodities, Inc. provides consulting services on federal agricultural support programs, particularly USDA’s sugar, honey, and dairy support programs. Dr. Colaccio currently serves as an economic advisor to the American Sugar Alliance, working to optimize Sugar Program management to the benefit of U.S. sugarcane and sugarbeet growers, processors, and refiners.

Dr. Colacicco has held a number of positions in the federal government, previously serving as the Director of the Dairy and Sweetener Analysis Group, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2000-2014). Dr. Colacicco administered the domestic Sugar Program and Sugarcane Disaster Assistance programs for the Farm Service Agency. He also provided the economic and policy analysis for FSA’s dairy and honey programs. He was responsible for the regulations and implementation of the domestic sugar program, which includes the Sugar Loan Program, Sugar Marketing Allotment Program, Sugar Payment in Kind Program, Feedstock Flexibility Program, and the sugar information collection system. He was responsible for developing the strategy and implementing the programs that eliminated the 2013 sugar surplus in the U.S. sugar market.

Dr. Colacicco also worked as a sugar and dairy analyst at the Dairy and Sweetener Analysis Group, USDA/FSA (1993-2000). Provided economic and policy analysis (interpreted law, wrote regulations, wrote implementing manuals, established quantitative methods of program eligibility and acceptance, evaluated programs) of USDA’s Sugar Marketing Allotment Program, Sugar Loan Program, Dairy Market Loss Assistance Program, and Dairy Price Support Program. Assisted in the elimination of the 2000/01 domestic sugar surplus, mainly through tightening the U.S. market to permit government sugar sales. Dr. Colacicco also developed and administered a program using surplus sugar to produce ethanol. He was a member of USDA’s dairy and sugar interagency estimates committees that produce USDA’s monthly WASDE report for 15 years.

Phillip Hayes

Phillip Hayes is a senior consultant with IRI Consultants, which merged in 2017 with North Bridge Communications – a DC-based public relations firm that Phillip co-founded more than 10 years earlier.  In addition to representing the American Sugar Alliance, Phillip also represents National Crop Insurance Services and Farm Policy Facts, a coalition of numerous agricultural organizations.

Before starting North Bridge, Phillip served as the American Sugar Alliance’s communications director, a position he began in 2004 and still holds today.  He was also a member of the media relations team at Hill & Knowlton, which was the world’s biggest PR firm at the time.

Phillip began his career on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant for a member of the House Appropriations Committee and as the staff director of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Production and Price Competitiveness.

A graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Phillip holds degrees in journalism and history.  He lives in the Charlotte, NC, area with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children – ages 14, 12 and 12.

Jack Pettus

Jack Pettus has worked in the Washington, DC, policy arena since 1987, serving in the Doorkeeper’s Office of the U.S. House of Representatives, and as staff for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and a federal commission to improve risk management tools for farmers.  Jack formed Pettus Consulting in 1995 and has been an advocate and consultant to barley growers, rice farmers, cotton warehouses, a technology start-up and global commodity trading companies.  Since 2001, Jack has represented the Louisiana sugarcane industry and he has served as Vice President for Government Relations for the American Sugar Cane League and as a member of the Executive Committee of the American Sugar Alliance since 2006.

Jack resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife, Laura, and their k9id, Dexter.

Brian Grunenfelder

Brian Grunenfelder has served as Trade Advisor to the American Sugar Alliance, the national coalition of growers, processors, and refiners of sugarbeets and sugarcane since January 2019.

Brian joined USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 1984. He served in a variety of trade policy-focused positions over his 27-year career with FAS, including Acting Deputy Administrator, Office of Agreements and Scientific Affairs; Assistant Deputy Administrator, Office of Negotiations and Agreements (ONA); and Director, Asia and Americas Division, International Trade Policy.

From 2011-2016, Brian served as Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative in USTR’s Office of Agricultural Affairs. In addition to his portfolio of responsibilities that included South Korea, Colombia, and Peru, Brian served as a lead negotiator in the agriculture market access group negotiations with Japan as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiative.

Jack Roney

The American Sugar Alliance is the national coalition of growers, processors, and refiners of sugarbeets and sugarcane.  Roney has been with ASA since 1996 and represents ASA on matters of domestic and trade policy.  He has testified at numerous Congressional and Executive Branch hearings, spoken at many international conferences, and appeared frequently on television and radio programs on behalf of American sugar producers. He has served as chairman of the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Sweeteners and Sweetener Products, a private sector trade policy advisory group formed by the U.S. government, and as president of the Sugar Club, an international industry group based in New York City. His 46-year career in agricultural policy has spanned nine Farm Bills.

Prior to joining the ASA, Roney served for seven years as Washington representative for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association and for 15 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including stints with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Economic Research Service, and World Agricultural Outlook Board. Earlier, he taught mathematics at Father Judge High School in Philadelphia.

Roney holds bachelor’s degrees in political science and German from Fordham University, where he co-captained the varsity swimming and water polo teams. His undergraduate studies included a year at the University of Cologne, Germany. Roney has earned two master’s degrees: in public affairs journalism from American University, and in international public policy from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. A native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Roney resides in Vienna, Virginia, with his wife, Deborah; they have two grown children, Kyle and Alison.

Jeff Harrison

Jeff Harrison serves as Senior Counsel at Combest, Sell & Associates. Jeff leads the firm in developing and implementing legislative and regulatory strategies, building coalitions, and promoting client priorities.

Prior to joining CS&A in 2005, Jeff served 13 years on Capitol Hill, including as a Legislative Director in the U.S. Senate and as Counsel for the House Committee on Agriculture where he was lead counsel on the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 and numerous titles to the 2002 Farm Bill, including commodities and crop insurance. Jeff also clerked for the Honorable Paul A. Magnuson, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota where he was sworn into the Minnesota State and Federal Bar. Jeff has had a hand in crafting every major agriculture statute written in the past 25 years.

A native of Bluffton, Minnesota in Otter Tail County, Jeff graduated with distinction from the University of North Dakota School of Law where he also earned his undergraduate degree. Harrison resides in Washington, DC and is active in the Latin Mass community at his parish.

Dr. Robert Johansson

Dr. Johansson serves as the Associate Director of Economics and Policy Analysis for the American Sugar Alliance, the national coalition of sugarbeet and sugarcane growers, processors, and refiners. There he analyzes and models domestic and world sugar supply and demand fundamentals and domestic and foreign sugar and general agricultural policies, including Farm Bill topics and international trade negotiations.

Previously, Dr. Robert Johansson was the Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Johansson served in that role from January 2015 to January 2021. As Chief Economist, he was responsible for the Department’s agricultural forecasts and projections and for advising the Secretary of Agriculture on economic implications of alternative programs, regulations, and legislative proposals.  During that period, Dr. Johansson also served as the Chairman of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors and was responsible for establishing USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation mission area in 2017.

He has also served as an economist with several government agencies, including USDA’s Economic Research Service, the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers.  Dr. Johansson received his B.A. in economics from Northwestern University and then served with the U.S. Peace Corps from 1990 to 1995.  After returning to his home State of Minnesota, he received his Ph.D. in Agricultural & Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota in 2000.  His research has spanned a wide range of issues, including biofuels policy, water quality and quantity policies, regulatory economics, food security, and regional modeling of agricultural systems.

 

Jim Wiesemeyer

From his office near Washington, DC, Jim Wiesemeyer contributes daily to Pro Farmer’s online website at profarmer.com, providing members with the latest information on agricultural policy and trade developments. He also is a participant in Farm Journal’s Agri-Talk radio program, has his weekly Farm Journal podcast each Monday called Signal to Noise, and serves as a Washington analyst for Pro Farmer and Farm Journal.

Since 1978, Mr. Wiesemeyer has frequently reported on and interviewed senior government officials, including presidents, as well as USDA Secretaries since Earl Butz. He has traveled extensively in his assignments and is a frequent speaker on farm policy and trade issues. Wiesemeyer rejoined Pro Farmer in June of 2017, after serving as their Washington consultant for 19 years while at Informa Economics, and before that an employee of Pro Farmer, then owned by Oster Communications. Mr. Wiesemeyer also is one of the writers for the Agriculture Letter, formerly the Kiplinger Ag Letter, now owned by Farm Journal Media

The Honorable Collin Peterson

The Honorable Collin Peterson represented Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, one of the nation’s largest agriculture districts, in Congress for 30 years. During his tenure, Mr. Peterson chaired the House Committee on Agriculture and was fundamental in the crafting and passage of five farm bills. Today, he is the founder and principal of the Peterson Group, an agriculture-policy-focused consulting firm. The Peterson Group is proud to partner with Combest, Sell & Associates where Chairman Peterson deploys his vast experience in an advisory and consulting role.

New Report Highlights Resiliency of America’s Sugar Supply Chain

America’s sugar supply chain proved resilient in the face of immense challenges in 2019 and 2020, in large part due to the stability provided by U.S. farm and trade policies, the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) stated in a report submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This report was developed by industry economists Jack Roney and Dr. Rob Johansson and provides an in-depth analysis of how the domestic sugar industry successfully responded to rapid shifts in consumer demand due to the COVID-19 global pandemic while dealing with the impact of a disastrous harvest. As Americans were sheltering in place during the pandemic, dining at restaurants and other commercial food outlets decreased sharply as Americans turned to dining at home.  This increase in home cooked meals translated to increased grocery store sales of sugar. The U.S. sugar industry responded to this dramatic change in the distribution supply chain to keep Americans well supplied. Moreover, no manufacturer was forced to close operations due to lack of sugar supplies.

That is because America benefits from a robust domestic sugar industry that supports 142,000 jobs in 22 states and produces high-quality sugar at an affordable price. More than 90 percent of the sugar consumed in the United States is either grown on 11,000 family farms or refined from raw sugar by American cane sugar refiners.

There are several factors that have contributed to the success of the domestic sugar supply chain:

  • The sugar industry is geographically diverse. Approximately half of America’s sugar production comes from sugarbeets, grown in 11 states, and sugarcane, grown in three states. These crops are processed in 45 mills, factories, and refineries across the country and sugar is distributed from 91 locations strategically located throughout the United States
  • The sugar industry is vertically integrated. The domestic sugar industry is largely structured as farmer-owned cooperatives. These cooperatives have made investments to respond efficiently to supply and demand challenges. The cooperative structure also allows producers to earn more of the food production dollar, supporting our vital rural communities.
  • The sugar industry is sustainable. Over the past 20 years, America’s sugar farmers have produced 16 percent more sugar on 11 percent less land while operating under some of the world’s highest environmental and labor standards.
  • The sugar industry is supported by successful farm and trade policies. America’s sugar policy ensures that we have the flexibility to respond to challenges and maintain a secure supply of sugar. All at no cost to taxpayers.

“Sugar is a critical good, and we are proud of the way that America’s sugar farmers and workers have always stepped up to keep America supplied with this sweet ingredient,” said Jack Pettus, ASA’s chairman. “A strong domestic sugar industry plays a key role in our national food security and contributes to the economic well-being of our rural and urban communities. It’s critical that the United States maintain the strength and integrity of the successful farm and trade policies that underpin a viable and resilient sugar supply chain.”

Please click here to review the full report provided to the USDA.

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.

Statement on House Agriculture Committee Leadership Elections

“America’s sugar farmers and workers extend their congratulations to Congressman David Scott for his election as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Congressman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson for his election as the Ranking Member. We are confident that under their leadership, the House Agriculture Committee will continue its record of supporting America’s sugar producers and our no-cost sugar policy. We look forward to working closely alongside incoming Chairman Scott and Ranking Member Thompson during the 117th Congress.” – American Sugar Alliance

 

Sugar Policy Ensures Adequate Supplies in a Crisis

This week marks the 78-year anniversary of sugar rationing. During World War II, sugar was so critical, and in such short supply since the U.S. was heavily dependent on foreign suppliers, that it was the first item to be rationed and the last item to be removed from the rationing list two years after the war ended.

“Sugar is scarce, make it stretch,” one government poster urged Americans during WWII.

It’s an appropriate moment to remember this anniversary, as the world is once again at war; this time, against an invisible enemy.

There is one critical difference: U.S. farm and trade policies ensure that we now have access to an affordable and sustainable supply of sugar.

During the 1940s, America was largely reliant on foreign nations for sugar. After the war ended and restrictions were lifted, the U.S. government sought to encourage the production of sugar here at home to make sure Americans were never again without this important food ingredient.

Now, American sugarcane and sugarbeet growers and the workers who process the crop into refined sugar ensure that we have a reliable domestic source of this essential ingredient. The millions of dollars that U.S. sugar producers have invested in the U.S. supply chain ensures product gets to market quickly. And, America’s no-cost sugar policy supports 142,000 jobs in more than 20 states with an economic impact of $20 billion.

More importantly, today’s sugar policy provides flexibility to ensure that we maintain an adequate supply of homegrown and imported sugar, while ensuring we are not dependent on foreign sugar suppliers.

As the world works quickly to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, measures meant to stop the virus have also complicated supply chains and, in some cases, have slowed delivery of food ingredients. Yet grocery store shelves remain stocked with sugar at a stable price.

We are so thankful for the men and women in the sugar industry who continue to provide us with the sugar we need to provide nourishing and comforting meals to our families. In the uncertain times caused by the COVID-19, it’s reassuring to know that sugar is one less thing the American public has to worry about.

Sugar Producers Aid COVID-19 Fight

The COVID-19 pandemic has required an all hands on deck approach to protect our communities and ensure first responders have the tools they need. Sugar producers have boldly stepped up to the challenge and are making critical donations, retooling portions of their production lines or diverting sugar from their normal supply chains to create necessary products to fight COVID-19.

Health care providers across the country are desperately in need of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks, to protect them as they are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. Sugar companies are donating extra masks and equipment to these first responders.

Michigan Sugar Company uses PPE to keep sugar workers safe, and donated a portion of their company supply to local health systems, including hundreds of masks, safety glasses, and gloves.

Amalgamated Sugar Company, which processes sugar beets in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, saw the pressing need for cloth face masks to protect against the COVID-19 virus and moved the industrial sewing machines in its quality lab into face mask production. They typically make tare sample bags but are now hard at work sewing face masks to protect their employees as they continue the essential work of producing food for our nation. Amalgamated Sugar employees are assisting in this effort as well, working to sew masks while at home.

“We will donate any surplus we have once our critical infrastructure employees are adequately protected,” said Scott Winn, Amalgamated Sugar’s Vice President of Operations.

Beyond masks, hand sanitizer was among the first items in short supply as the pandemic took its toll on stockpiles across the world. The sugar industry has teamed up with distilleries to help restock this critical item.

In Florida, the members of Florida Sugar & Molasses Exchange are donating molasses to Tampa Bay Rum Company to produce sanitizer that will be donated to doctors, hospitals, police, fire, EMTs, letter and package carriers or any frontline workers. U.S. Sugar is donating fermentable sugar to Sugar Sand Distillery in Lake Placid to make sanitizer.

Three Roll Estate Distillery in Baton Rouge normally makes rum, but with the help of the sugarcane industry in Louisiana, they’re now distilling a higher proof alcohol for hand sanitizer.

Domino Sugar’s Baltimore refinery donated sugar to Lost Ark Distilling, which will use it to create ethanol, one of the ingredients in the hand sanitizer it is producing and donating to local hospitals and first responders.

In Illinois, American Sugar Refining (ASR) Group is donating sugar and molasses to KOVAL Distillery, which will use it to create ethanol for hand sanitizer that will be given to fire stations, hospitals and ambulance companies.

“By continuing to support each other and our neighbors, we will get through this crisis together and will be stronger for it,” ASR Group said.

We’re proud to lend a helping hand as we all fight COVID-19 together.

America’s Sugar Industry Launches SugarSustainably.org

America’s sugar farmers and workers are global leaders in sustainable production, providing consumers with high-quality sugar produced under some of the world’s strictest safety, labor and environmental standards.

And it’s all possible thanks to America’s no-cost sugar policy.

Today the American Sugar Alliance launched SugarSustainably.org to highlight the commitments that our industry has made over the last several decades to preserve our natural resources, family farms and rural communities for future generations.

“America’s sugar industry is proud to be on the front lines of securing a more resilient and efficient future for agriculture,” said Brian Baenig, chairman of the American Sugar Alliance.

Sustainable sugar production is rooted in our pledge to prioritize people, protect the planet, produce superior products, and promote fair-price policies. SugarSustainably.org shares stories from across the country about the ways that our industry has fulfilled these commitments.

The American sugar industry prioritizes people by investing in our local communities, supporting multi-generational family farms, creating 142,000 well-paying jobs and providing development opportunities for our diverse workforce.

We are continually advancing industry efforts to protect the planet, including action to reduce greenhouse gasses, sequester carbon and improve water and soil quality. Investments in research and technology have enabled sugar producers to produce 12% more sugar on 16% less land than 20 years ago while reducing carbon emissions and minimizing the use of fertilizer and pesticides.

And we produce superior products for our customers utilizing all parts of the crop to reduce waste and create beneficial co-products. From livestock feed to road deicers, eco-friendly kitchenware, fuel and electricity generation, sugar co-products touch the lives of countless consumers.

Lastly, the sugar industry promotes fair-price policies in order to provide consumers with affordable sugar, help farmers mitigate risks and encourage subsidy-free markets that improve the quality of life for farmers around the globe.

SugarSustainably.org features a wide range of initiatives from throughout the beet and cane sugar industries, from the innovative use of technology to leading environmental programs.

These success stories stand in stark contrast to the negative impact of a heavily subsidized world market that rewards poor environmental practices. Unfortunately, farm policy critics would like to end our no-cost sugar policy, outsourcing U.S. sugar production to this unpredictable and unsustainable global sugar market.

It’s clear that a sustainable future is one that builds upon the work already accomplished by the U.S. sugar industry to protect our environment while giving our farmers, workers and communities the opportunity to flourish.

Stay tuned for more stories about how America’s sugar producers are taking action to produce sugar sustainably.

Sugar Producers Send Letter to Conaway, Peterson Prior to Mark-Up

The American Sugar Alliance sent a letter to leaders of the House Agriculture Committee yesterday, thanking the panel’s members for supporting sugar policy and asking for support in defeating possible Farm Bill amendments.

The letter expressed sugar farmers’ opposition to legislative proposals to mandate oversupplies with subsidized foreign imports and to exclude sugar farmers from loans that are available to other commodities.

Text of the letter, which was signed by the American Sugar Alliance executive committee, reads as follows:

Dear Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson:

On behalf of 142,000 U.S. sugar farmers and workers, we thank you both for your continued support of America’s no-cost sugar policy.  As the industry’s bankers and accountants noted in the attached letter, sugar producers are facing dire economic pressures right now, and a strong sugar policy will be essential to their ability to obtain financing and weather the storm.

Opponents of this policy – driven by multinational food manufacturers – are aggressively attacking sugar producers’ safety net, which is designed to counter foreign subsidies and unfair trade practices.  These attacks come even though food makers have achieved strong profits by charging consumers more for sweetened products and pocketing the savings from sugar prices that are lower today than in 1980.

We will depend on your leadership to beat back legislative attempts to further depress farmers’ prices with heavily subsidized imports.  Components of H.R. 4265, which we call the “Sugar Farmer Bankruptcy Bill,” could be offered as Farm Bill amendments, and we fear these policy overhauls would have disastrous consequences if enacted.

There is overwhelming bipartisan support for current sugar policy in the House Agriculture Committee, and its members will be on solid footing in continuing their support.  U.S. grocery shoppers pay 22 percent less for sugar than the rest of the developed world.  Meanwhile, U.S. confectioners pay 25 percent less than companies in other developed countries and have announced more than 100 domestic expansion projects since the 2014 Farm Bill took hold.

After years of dealing with a market distorted by unlawful, subsidized Mexican sugar imports, U.S. producers need some financial certainty right now.  A five-year Farm Bill will go a long way towards providing that certainty, and we hope Congress can deliver a bill this year.

We commend each of you for the manner in which sugar policy discussions have gone to date and appreciate the continuation of existing policy in H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.  We look forward to working with you as the Farm Bill process unfolds.

Union Workers Pave The Way for Sugar Farmers

If you work on Capitol Hill, chances are good you’ve run into a sugar farmer this week.  After all, there are dozens of them in town meeting with hundreds of offices.

But it’s not just farmers who are spreading the message, “Don’t cut my family out of the Farm Bill.”  Union workers were in town a week earlier making the rounds.

“Meeting the different representatives and being able to talk to them and understand their point of view and explaining why you’re fighting for something is important,” said William Bland, a sugar worker from Florida and member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union (IAM).

IAM is among the many organizations pushing for a strong sugar policy and fighting attempts to weaken it in the upcoming Farm Bill.

Farm policy opponents are currently lobbying to outsource U.S. sugar production and good-paying U.S. jobs to heavily subsidized foreign industries that are known to have poor environmental and labor standards.

Mark Thompson was one of the IAM Florida Sugar Workers members who made the trip to D.C. to ask lawmakers to oppose this outsourcing scheme.

“Walking the extra mile to protect our jobs is what we’re doing,” he said. “You should never be afraid to speak about something that’s important to you.”

Their trip came at an important time.  Not only is Congress debating the Farm Bill, but America’s foreign competitors are busy manipulating the market in hopes of getting a leg up.

India, the world’s second biggest sugar producer, just announced a doubling of sugar import duties to protect its domestic industry, bringing the total tax to 100%.  And Pakistan increased subsidies to increase exports.

All told, more than 100 countries subsidize sugar production around the world.  America’s sugar policy, which costs taxpayers $0 because it is based on loans repaid with interest instead of government checks, is all U.S. producers have to counter these foreign subsidies.

IAM Florida Sugar Workers member Cornelius Fowler knows what is at stake if subsidized foreign sugar floods the market.

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