When Kendall Busch learned of a scathing attack on his U.S. Senator for supporting an industry that has meant generations of reliable, good-paying, jobs in Nebraska, he was pretty upset.
The Scottsbluff, Nebraska, sugarbeet grower couldn’t believe that someone would attempt to tarnish Sen. Deb Fischer’s record of backing American sugar farmers.
“I was angry,” he said. “Making deceptive claims about our policy and accusations against our Senator was very disrespectful, very tasteless.”
The Kearney Hub in Fischer’s district was one of approximately 50 newspapers that have printed a form letter used by a D.C.-based lobbyist to pressure members of Congress into removing sugar farmers from the next Farm Bill.
It’s easy to see why these attacks have upset Busch and his fellow sugar farmers.
The lobbyist, Nicholas Pyle, likens hardworking American families that grow sugarcane and sugarbeets to drug-like “cartels.” He calls the no-cost policy used to balance the playing field in a highly subsidized global market “a Soviet-style command and control scheme.”
Don’t compare Busch’s livelihood to Soviets and cartels.
“I guess the thing that really struck me was being called a member of a sugar cartel,” Busch said. “I don’t have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned office in the summertime pushing a pen. I’m out in 100 degree temperatures with a shovel, digging, irrigating and nurturing my crop to make a living. It was very disrespectful.”
Last summer his crop got hailed on, and then in the fall, he worked nonstop to harvest his sugarbeets and get them to the factory before the winter freeze set in. And he didn’t rely on a Soviet-style scheme to get the job done.
He invested his own capital to plant his crop. Then he cared for it all season and spent sleepless nights worrying if the weather would cooperate. When the time arrived to harvest the beets, he got on a harvester, which he has meticulously maintained each year out of his own pocket, and dug beets day in and day out.
If he hadn’t managed those risks and worked so hard, he would have lost his own money in the balance. Sounds a lot like good ole American capitalism.
That’s where Pyle and his client, the Independent Bakers’ Association, come in.
Instead of a fair price for American-made sugar, and an industry that supports 142,000 American jobs, they’d like to see Congress pull the plug on backing the loans that sugar producers repay with interest. And they’d like for Congress to mandate an oversupply on the U.S. market with sugar from subsidized countries like Brazil, Mexico and Thailand.
Busch told the Kearney Hub why that would be such a bad idea in a follow-up letter:
Our industry provides a $397-million economic impact to the state. Nebraska alone has six sugar distribution centers. Nearly 11,500 people are employed by the industry, representing almost 10 percent of the sugar jobs in the country. Sugar policy operates at zero-cost to taxpayers (no subsidy checks), keeps prices to consumers well below the average price around the world and ensures that highly efficient U.S. farmers and workers are able to compete against foreign countries, where sugar is subsidized and dumped in the global market below their cost of production.
This is why Fischer works to advocate in Washington for us and her constituents. She should be applauded for supporting sugar policy.
In the future, we should be more careful before allowing outsiders with an anti-American farmer agenda to tell Nebraskans what’s important to the people who live and work here.
Busch isn’t alone either. Other response letters from sugar farmers and workers have appeared in papers from Wyoming to Minnesota, Idaho and New York. And unlike the anti-farmer crowd, these letters aren’t a lazy cut-and-paste job.
Pyle may not be successful in his quest to cut U.S. sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill, but he has certainly been successful in spreading deceptive information and energizing the agricultural community.