From the 35th International Sweetener Symposium:
As Congress works to complete the 2018 Farm Bill, bipartisan members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation showed their support for America’s sugarbeet and sugarcane producers at this week’s 35th International Sweetener Symposium.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture and one of the bill’s architects, set the tone for the event: “From growing sugarbeets, to processing, to food manufacturing, sugar is an important part of Michigan’s economy … that’s one reason why I have always fought for a strong sugar program in the Farm Bill.”
Stabenow said she’s committed to completing the Farm Bill soon, by reconciling the Senate bill with the House version, because farmers need help amid low prices and trade challenges.
Republican Congressman Jack Bergman, whose district represents nearly half of the state’s land mass and is home to many Michigan farms, echoed that sentiment before a crowd of roughly 400 industry leaders.
“The time is right to pass a good Farm Bill,” he said, explaining that sugar policy must remain intact. “It represents the consistency that you need, the reliability, and an ability to longer-term plan.”
Dan Kildee, a Democratic Congressman whose district includes hundreds of sugarbeet farm families, discussed the hard work that went into defeating legislative attempts to weaken America’s no-cost sugar policy during the debate.
“When we won this fight,” he said, “I think it sent a pretty strong message about where this country’s going to be in terms of protecting our growers and protecting American jobs.”
The House rejected, by a 141-vote margin, an amendment that would have depressed sugar farmers’ prices and flooded the U.S. market with additional subsidized imports.
Congressman John Moolenaar was the last elected official to address the group on Tuesday afternoon. The Republican from Michigan’s fourth district, and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, agreed with Kildee’s assessment on the House vote.
“To have that kind of a defeat is going to send a powerful message about where Congress stands,” he concluded. And that’s good news for sugar producers who depend on sugar policy to obtain operating capital and to serve as a backstop against foreign subsidies and predatory trade practices.
Luther Markwart, chairman of the American Sugar Alliance, was quick to thank all the members who addressed the industry’s annual meeting. He pointed out that it was because of their leadership and hard work that sugar policy stayed strong in this Farm Bill and U.S. sugar jobs weren’t outsourced.