During the sugar beet harvest, production runs 24 hours a day on Kevin Etzler’s farm in Minnesota. It’s far from an easy job, but sugar farmers take immense pride in providing an affordable and high-quality homegrown product.
But because virtually every one of the 120 foreign countries that produce sugar subsidize their industry in some way, depressing global prices, American sugar farmers rely on our strong federal sugar policy to survive.
“With so many new members of Congress who will be influencing agricultural and trade policy over the next two years, it is important to share with them first-hand the challenges that farmers are facing,” Kevin explains.
So, Kevin took his message directly to Capitol Hill.
Cane and beet farmers spent the last two weeks meeting with hundreds of lawmakers in Washington, DC, sharing their personal stories and thanking them for passing a Farm Bill that protects a strong sugar policy.
For Pete DuFresne, a sugarcane farmer from Louisiana, it is important that Congress understand that a vibrant sugar industry means economic opportunities for communities across America.
“We’ve grown sugar in Louisiana for more than 250 years. And if we didn’t raise sugar, the only thing we’d grow around here is the unemployment line,” Pete says.
The economic security that America’s sugar policy provides comes at zero cost to taxpayers because farmers receive loans they must repay with interest, not subsidy checks.
“Capital is the biggest hurdle to entry in farming – especially today when farm incomes are low. Lenders will not extend loans to young growers, who lack the equity of our older peers, unless there is confidence of repayment,” Louisiana farmer Travis Medine says. “With our lenders, that confidence comes from the no-cost sugar policy found in the Farm Bill.”
John Snyder from Wyoming emphasizes that U.S. sugar policy has been essential to his survival against unfair foreign competitors. “We need policy, a good solid sugar policy” he says, “You know, we just want a fair shake.”
“We can compete with anybody, but I can’t compete against the Brazilian treasury, or the treasury of India, or Mexico when they were dumping subsidized sugar in our market and the government was paying their growers down there huge amounts of money to do that,” John explains.
Tim Deal from North Dakota agrees: “We cannot take on foreign treasuries and foreign governments and have them dump sugar into the United States. It will bankrupt us.”
Protecting a no-cost program that ensures a sustainable supply of sugar and supports 142,000 American jobs is a no-brainer. Thank you to the sugar farmers who recently made their voices heard by taking to the halls of Congress and educating lawmakers about the importance of U.S. sugar policy.
Learn more about America’s sugar farmers and workers by visiting the Faces of Sugar Policy.