Next week, sugar farmers from Florida to California will be trading in their jeans and boots for ties and suits to meet with dozens of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They will be sharing an important message with Congress: foreign sugar subsidies distort the global market and hinder sustainability.
Thankfully, America’s no-cost sugar policy rewards responsible actions to protect our planet. Our farmers are leading the way on sustainable sugar production.
The American Sugar Alliance recently traveled to two sugar-farming states to talk with sugar producers first-hand about the farming practices they are using to sustain our environment.
“We are the original folks that understood sustainability. By nature, we have to sustain what’s precious to us, and what is vital to us and that’s our land,” says Michael Ellis, Vice President of Strategic Environmental Affairs at U.S. Sugar. Florida’s sugarcane farmers value the incredible resources and unique ecosystems that Florida has to offer and have invested more than $450 million to restore and preserve the Everglades.
In order to protect the Everglades, it’s critical to keep soil on farms and prevent phosphorus from entering the water. Sugarcane farmers in South Florida collaborated with scientists, industry partners and government agencies to develop state-of-the-art farming practices to protect the environment and reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Florida’s waterways.
The result? For the past 24 years, Florida sugarcane farmers have on average reduced the amount of phosphorus leaving their farms by 56 percent. That’s more than double the reduction target required by law.
“Being able to produce a crop, helping feed the world, and making the environment a better place? It’s a win-win,” says Jarad Plair, a farm manager for U.S. Sugar.
Nearly 2,000 miles away, we joined fifth-generation farmer Curt Knutson as the sugarbeet harvest in Minnesota was in full swing. Sustainability is not just a buzzword for Knutson and the other farmers who are part of the American Crystal Sugar Company co-op. It’s a way of life.
“We do things sustainably, that’s what keeps us going generation to generation,” Knutson says.
For Minnesota’s Red River Valley, sugarbeets are also a critical component of the region’s economic sustainability. American Crystal Sugar Company produces and sells approximately 3 billion pounds of sugar a year, and those sales have a $4.5 billion economic impact in the Red River Valley. The sugarbeet crop supports more than just the farmers, it supports grocery stores, equipment manufacturers, service providers and everyone else who lives in that region.