All eyes in Washington and across the nation are fixed on what deficit reduction decisions will be made by the so-called "Super Committee."
While the Committee is officially tasked with cutting spending by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, some key observers are saying, "go big and go bold," meaning that cuts should be in the $4 trillion range over 10 years.
The argument is that if you don't "go big" now, you will be making additional cuts each year, which further reduces the predictability and stability of government policies. Other views are that it will be difficult for the Committee to find the $1.5 trillion; while some specific cuts can be made, some across-the-board cuts are not out of the question.
There are numerous scenarios that can play out, but speculation in mid-October on potential outcomes serves no useful purpose in this article.
The bottom line right now is that we need to preserve as much funding as possible for agriculture and allow the Agriculture committees to make the decisions on where and how the cuts are made.
While President Obama has called for cuts of $33 billion in agriculture, it is clearly more than what agriculture can withstand.
The real challenge is the diversity of agriculture-"one size fits all" policy solutions don't work for everyone. In the case of sugar, we have a policy that works and has not cost the taxpayer any money, and that is expected to continue for the next decade. Rest assured, maintaining our no-cost policy is our highest priority in the months ahead.
Refined Sugar Import Increase
On September 27 the USDA announced that it would increase refined sugar imports for the fiscal year 2011 (ending on September 30) by 140,185 short tons refined, or 2.8 million cwt.
Exporting countries would have until November 30, 2011, (two months) to deliver to the U.S. market. USDA said, "This action is being taken after a determination that additional supplies of refined sugar are necessary to reduce risks associated with adverse weather and other supply disruptions. Harvest of the FY2012 sugarbeet crop is significantly slower to date than during several of the previous fiscal years."
September estimates by USDA show the 2011 fiscal year ends with adequate stocks of 1,745,000 short tons raw value (15.2 percent stocks-to-use ratio).
The additional sugar would put ending stocks for the 2012 fiscal year (ending Sept. 30, 2012) at 1,127,000 tons (11.1 percent stocks-to-use).
Additional imports will be allowed to enter next year as a result of the free trade agreements with Colombia (50,000 tons) and Panama (7,000 tons); imports from Mexico are projected at 1,218,000, but the amount is always an uncertainty. All of these factors will be taken into consideration in determining whether any additional imports are needed after April 1, 2012.
After a long delay, Congress took up consideration of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Colombia will be allowed to ship 50,000 additional tons of sugar to the U.S. each year and it will increase by 750 metric tons each year.
Panama will get 7,000 additional tons each year, and it will increase by 60 metric tons each year for 10 years.
Korea does not produce sugar, so it does not get any access to our market. These amounts should be able to be absorbed in an expanding U.S. sugar market.
You can find specifics on all trade agreements on the ASGA website: www.americansugarbeet.org
Roundup Ready Sugarbeets
The court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) draft is expected to be made public by USDA in mid-October for review and public comment.
We anticipate the document to be significantly large and comprehensive. It is very important for all of our growers to submit individual and unique comments to the USDA on EIS.
Please look to your cooperative/company staff for analysis of the EIS and for answers to any questions you may have regarding your unique comments.
They will also provide you with detailed instructions for submitting them.
This is the most important thing you can do as an individual grower to support the continued production of RRSB.
On September 23, the beet industry and the Center for Food Safety filed initial briefs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The beet industry argues that the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) action to implement a partial deregulation for RRSB complies with the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
Our industry also argues that certain mandatory conditions imposed by APHIS are unduly burdensome and not justified: 1) The fourmile isolation distance required for RRSB seed production should not apply nationwide; 2) Requiring growers to begin monitoring and record keeping on bolters on April 1 is well before much of the crop is even planted, and clearly well before any potential bolting would occur; 3) The triple or quadruple containment for the transportation of the seed for root crop production is overboard and burdensome.
The Center for Food Safety is suing USDA on the basis that USDA should not have partially deregulated RRSB while APHIS prepared the court-ordered EIS that analyzed the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the crop.
Additional briefs and responses will be filed with the court throughout the rest of this year.
2012 ASGA Annual Meeting
Mark your calendar to attend this meeting in sunny Orlando, Fla., February 9-11 at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel. Program, destination and registration information will be posted on the ASGA website (www.americansugarbeet.org). Meeting registration will be available online starting November 1.