Sugar: A Strong Supply Chain

In early 2020, America faced the beginning of a global pandemic. Historically robust supply chains were tested, forcing ships to wait in line at port and leaving grocery store shelves sparsely stocked. However, our industry kept America reliably supplied with sugar, an essential food ingredient.

This was largely due to the strong farm and trade policies that have supported America’s sugar growers and processors and allowed our industry to invest in a robust domestic industry and an extensive storage and delivery network.

Today, there are more than 90 strategically located sugar factories, mills, refineries, and storage facilities in the U.S. that provide for customer needs and just-in-time delivery across the nation, making the sugar industry critical to our national food security.

Congressional support for this vital American industry is through legislation known as the Farm Bill, which includes sugar policy, designed to cost taxpayers $0 and to keep sugar affordable and reliably available. Sugarbeet and sugarcane growers are meeting virtually with congressional offices this week to talk about the importance of this policy as they ramp up to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023.

Here’s how it works: The seasonal nature of sugarbeet and sugarcane crops requires sugar producers to store massive amounts of sugar until the market wants it. The sugar extracted from these crops is stored at the expense of sugar producers. The Farm Bill authorizes the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to offer loans to America’s sugar producers so farmers can pay their bills while their sugar is being stored for their customers. Once the customers take delivery and pay producers for the sugar, the storage loans can be repaid to USDA with interest.  

“The sugar provision in the Farm Bill doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything, but it’s an essential safety net for us,” said Ervin Schlemmer, a sugarbeet farmer in Montana.

At the same time, our existing trade commitments provide 41 countries with guaranteed preferential market access to the U.S., making America the 3rd largest sugar importer in the world. Combined with domestic sugar production, this ensures that American consumers and food manufacturers always have sugar available.

If current sugar and trade policies were weakened or eliminated, our market would be flooded with imported sugar that is heavily subsidized and less sustainably produced, driving American farmers and workers out of business. And as a result, our country would be dependent on unreliable and uncertain foreign suppliers.

“I need a strong Farm Bill that stops foreign governments from having a yard sale of their heavily subsidized sugar here in the United States and I need a government to say we want our food produced in America,” said Ardis Hammock, a sugarcane grower in Florida.

We’re proud to help feed America, and glad that Congress has continued to support the sugar farmers and workers who keep America sweet.