CONTACT: Phillip Hayes
President Barack Obama today officially signed the 2014 Farm Bill, and with it, continued America’s current sugar policy for another five years. Sugar producers applauded the new law, which overcame tremendous obstacles to ultimately unite leaders from both political parties.
The sugar industry also noted its appreciation for the signing ceremony being held in Michigan, which is home to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D).
“When the naysayers said a Farm Bill couldn’t pass, Senator Stabenow refused to give up. Her determination is the reason we have a strong farm policy that saves taxpayers money and gives America’s farmers peace of mind,” said Richard Gerstenberger, a sugarbeet farmer and chairman of Michigan Sugar Company.
Sugar employs thousands in Michigan and other Midwestern states. The country’s largest beet sugar producer, American Crystal Sugar Company, operates in North Dakota and Minnesota.
David Berg, the company’s president and CEO, was invited to Michigan to attend the bill signing ceremony. He was quick to point out the role his local congressional representatives—including House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)—played in the process.
“Minnesotans and North Dakotans are blessed with elected leaders that understand agriculture and the importance of a strong farm policy,” he said. “The sugar provisions in this bill give us a chance against low prices and foreign subsidies, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Sugar is also important to numerous southern states like Louisiana and Florida that produce cane.
“Sugar has been part of our heritage for nearly 300 years, but we’re facing tougher challenges today than ever,” explained Jim Simon, executive director of the Louisiana-based American Sugar Cane League. “Prices have fallen 50 percent because unneeded Mexican sugar has flooded the market, and without a strong sugar policy, we’d struggle.”
Simon said that the overwhelming support sugar policy received from his state’s delegation is a testament to its success throughout the years.
John Hundley, a farmer and chairman of the board of of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, agreed that sugar policy’s positive track record helped keep it in tact during the debate.
“Sugar is the cheapest major commodity policy in America, and it ensures that we have ample supplies of an affordable, homegrown product,” he said. “Most importantly, it keeps U.S. jobs in America, where they belong. Lawmakers should be proud of what this policy has accomplished.”
Large confectioners spent millions lobbying lawmakers to gut U.S. sugar policy; a move that would have left America dependent on heavily subsidized foreign sugar suppliers. Those attempts failed in five recorded votes held during Farm Bill discussions.
The American Sugar Alliance, which represents both beet and cane producers from across the country, has been complimentary of congressional leaders for continuing sugar policy and reaching a Farm Bill compromise capable of overwhelmingly passing both chambers.
“U.S. agriculture and America’s sugar farmers are in a stronger position today thanks to the hard work and support of President Barack Obama, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Thad Cochran (R-MS), Congressmen Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Collin Peterson, and all the Farm Bill conferees,” said ASA Chairman Jim Johnson. “On behalf of the sugar industry and the 142,000 jobs we support, thank you.”