News From the ASA Meeting in North Carolina

Published online: Aug 08, 2006 American Sugar Alliance
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ASHEVILLE, N.C.-Bankers in sugar-producing states have a lot riding on the next Farm Bill and are hoping that Congress continues the current sugar policy, which they say gives them confidence when lending money to sugar producers. Policy decisions made over the next year could make or break the U.S. sugar industry and will affect the ability of farmers to repay loans, said Jack Cassidy, senior vice president of corporate relations for Denver-based CoBank, one of America's largest agricultural lenders. Many of those rural communities in Louisiana and Florida were rocked last year by hurricanes, and lenders know that changes to current legislation could affect peoples' ability to rebuild. First South Farm Credit, the Farm Credit System's biggest agricultural lender in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, expressed its concerns over sudden shifts in U.S. sugar policy in a July 26 letter to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Such a policy swing could jeopardize the state's more than 200-year-old sugar industry, according to Congressman Charlie Melancon (D-LA). SUGAR ETHANOL PROMISING, HOWEVER, it shouldn't Replace Sugar Policy. Years from now, Americans could put sugar in their gas tanks on purpose, sucrose ethanol experts said today at the 23rd International Sweetener Symposium. But as promising as a national sugar-to-ethanol program might sound, it could be years away and will require government involvement, they warned. Thanks, in part, to years of U.S. government investment in corn-based ethanol, production costs have decreased greatly over the past two decades. Cost is the major hurdle to sucrose ethanol in America and new technologies and government investment will be needed to overcome that barrier, panelists at the Symposium said. Dr. Hosein Shapouri, author of a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study on sucrose ethanol, told the group that creating fuel from bagasse-the material left over after sugar juice is squeezed from a cane stalk-and other biomass materials holds promise but will require technology development. In the coming year, many people will be watching Hawaii closely to see what the future might hold in sucrose ethanol. With the aid of the state government and some federal dollars, Hawaii will become the first state with a sizeable sugar ethanol industry. Regardless of what the future holds for sucrose ethanol in the rest of the country, sugar industry leaders have been quick to point out that any program should not replace the current U.S. sugar policy, which they are asking Congress to extend in the upcoming Farm Bill. For a copy of the briefing paper, or for more information about U.S. sugar policy and the International Sweetener Symposium, visit www.sugaralliance.org Audio files from the International Sweetener Symposium can be downloaded at www.radiospace.com/sugar.htm