New Sugar Policy Becomes Law
Sugar Producers Urge Prompt Implementation
The Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to override President George Bush's Farm Bill veto. After the vote, the new sugar policy in the Farm Bill officially became law.
"This is a great day not just for farmers, but for all of America," said Alan Welp, a farmer from Wray, Colorado and the president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. "We thank Congress for passing a law that provides funding to feed our nation's poor, enhances support for conservation, helps wean America off of foreign oil, and ensures that U.S. farmers will be around to put food on this country's tables."
But according to Welp, sugar farmers aren't celebrating. "The new sugar policy still needs to be implemented, and it's our hope that implementation will take place promptly because we're really struggling right now," he noted.
Unlike other crops, sugar prices are slumping-a problem that is further compounded by sugar producers' rising input costs.
The new law is designed to help alleviate this pressure. The Farm Bill maintains the existing sugar policy and enhances it with an ethanol provision and a small rate increase on loans that sugar producers repay to the government with interest.
Rick Roth, a Florida sugar farmer and board member of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, says the current economic situation is so dire that producers are considering forfeiting on government loans, which could cost taxpayers millions.
"Possible forfeitures are a direct result of too much subsidized foreign sugar being let onto our market through trade deals," he explained. "It is our hope that the USDA will take the actions necessary to avoid forfeitures now and in the future."
Because of a procedural glitch, the trade title of the Farm Bill has not yet become law, but is expected to after Congress returns from its Memorial Day break.
For more information about U.S. sugar policy, visit www.sugaralliance.org