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.