Agriculture’s opponents were dealt a stinging defeat on the House floor today as an amendment targeting America’s sugar farmers was rejected by a whopping 141-vote margin.
The amendment, introduced by Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Danny Davis (D-IL), was designed to flood the U.S. sugar market with subsidized imports and depress farmers’ prices.
Multinational food manufacturers backed the bill and have long lobbied to outsource U.S. sugar production to subsidized foreign industries. The agricultural community rallied against it, including scores of sugar farmers and workers who came to Washington to let lawmakers know how crippling the amendment would be.
“The Foxx-Davis scheme was designed to cut sugar families out of the Farm Bill and reward bad actors abroad,” explained Texas sugarcane farmer Bryce Wilde. “It would’ve led to bankruptcies and job loss across the country, and lawmakers were right to defeat it.”
Sugar producers applauded House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) for their leadership in defeating the Foxx-Davis amendment. Five similar sugar amendments were voted down during the 2014 Farm Bill, but the margins were closer.
“Big food companies spent millions lobbying to harm U.S. sugar farmers, but Congress saw this proposal for what it was – an America-last sugar policy,” added Curt Rutherford, a farmer and president of the California Sugarbeet Growers Association. “This vote came down to a simple question: Do you support U.S. farmers or not. And we appreciate the fact that so many members clearly support farmers?”
Sugar producers also got a lot of support from other commodities, union leaders, bankers, accountants, free-market advocates, and even foreign sugar industries – all of whom wrote letters supporting the current no-cost sugar policy.
Wilde and Rutherford believe today’s vote sends a clear message to the United States Senate, which is slated to take up the Farm Bill in the coming weeks. And sugar producers say they plan to continue their intense education efforts.
“It’s important for lawmakers to actually meet the men and women who are affected by their votes.” Wilde concluded. “They need to see the sugar workers who will lose jobs and the multi-generation sugar farms that will go under if they flood our market with subsidized imports.”
The American Sugar Alliance has spotlighted many sugar farmers and workers – including Wilde and Rutherford – as part of their Faces of Sugar Policy campaign.
The House is expected to vote tomorrow on the entire Farm Bill, which continues current sugar policy.