Since the beginning of the year Congress and the President have been consumed by the challenges of stabilizing the economy through the proposed stimulus package. In addition to dealing with a few tax problems, the appointment process for key administration positions has been slow. We continue set in a holding pattern, waiting for key USDA players to be appointed.
At the recent ASGA annual meeting, grower leaders spent several days working on many issues of value to growers. Board meetings and general sessions are an opportunity to get in-depth briefings on issues that have either an immediate or long term impact on our industry.
Top of the list is making sure the new Farm Bill is carried out as the Congress intended. There have been clear cases in the past when the Administration has implemented a law contrary to congressional intent, so we must be vigilant and avoid any judicial intervention needed to correct implementation problems.
The board received a full briefing on the status of the Roundup Ready lawsuit from our legal counsel. All of our discussions were under an attorney-client privilege so no public comments can be made.
One key date to take note of is April 3, when the judge will hear the oral arguments in the case.
Grower leaders will be headed to Washington, D.C. the last week of February and the first week of March to visit congressional offices. With many new congressional staff in the various offices this is a good opportunity to meet them and answer any questions about our industry or our policy.
Congress should know that when unemployment is on the rise, the U.S. sugar industry generates 146,000 jobs and pumps $10 billion into the economy at no cost to taxpayers. We have been and continue to be a stimulus package for our nation’s rural economy.
One important issue you will need to keep a closer eye on is “climate change” legislation. While it is unlikely that legislation will pass this year, the debate and policy design is in its early stages.
The elements of the issue are quite complex and yet the concept is pretty simple. How much oxygen do you produce and how much carbon dioxide do you produce during growing and production? What policy incentives may be put in place to help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is being produced? Stay tuned.
We are also working on a number of crop insurance issues to better address grower risks. We have already met with USDA to ask for an increase in the price election from the initial announced level of $38.50/ton for the 2009 crop. USDA has been thoughtful and helpful in the past to address this concern.
We will also be working to get better replant coverage to reflect the cost of today’s new seed treatments. In addition, we feel it is time to move forward with the proposed revenue insurance policy so that it may be in place for the 2010 crop.