From The ASGA

Align and Unify For 2012 Farm Bill

Published in the January 2012 Issue Published online: Jan 23, 2012 Feature Luther Markwart, Executive Vice President, ASGA
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As we usher in the new year, it will be one of turbulence in the world of farm policy and politics.

The pre-Thanksgiving failure of the Super Committee to produce recommendations for reducing the burdensome budget deficits leaves the nation with mandatory cuts across the board in most government programs.

Fifteen billion dollars out of the agriculture policy will bring plenty of handwringing and hard work for the agriculture community. This will be a very busy time for industry leaders trying to forge policies that work for producers, are fiscally responsible, can be supported by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

The one thing that agriculture must do is find alignment with one another and be unified in pressing for passage of the 2012 farm bill.

Sugar Policy Discussion

With respect to sugar policy, we have a policy that works well for producers, taxpayers and our customers by assuring them a reliable supply of high-quality sugar. While our sugar users are strongly advocating throwing sugar policy overboard in order for prices to plunge and drive down their cost and increase their profits, if they achieved their objective it would seriously undermine their supply chain.

What is most important for our customers is to have multiple suppliers that are geographically dispersed. This creates greater competition between multiple sellers in the market place and spreads the risk of crop failure across the country.

Buyers always want and need multiple sources of supply. By damaging U.S. sugar policy, the net result is further consolidation within the domestic industry over time which is in no one's best interest. All you have to do is look at what is happening in Europe to see the shortsightedness of dismantling large portions of domestic industry.

It is our farmers who take all of the risk and carry the cost of storing the entire inventory. Growers need an adequate price safety net that gives lenders the security they need for making loans to growers and processors.

The current policy provides these important elements along with no projected cost for the next 10 years.

Clearly this is a policy that should be left untouched in the 2012 farm bill, but many will cry out against it in ignorance. We have been and will continue to educate the policy makers on the importance and benefits of the current policy.

Roundup Ready Sugar Beets

With the conclusion of the public commenting period ending December 13, of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), USDA is now reviewing the comments, formulating responses and making any final modifications to the draft.

It is anticipated that a final EIS and decision by USDA will occur this summer. The industry will continue to operate under the conditions set out under the partial deregulation that it operated under in 2011, until a final determination on the EIS is made by USDA.

I would like to express our deepest appreciation for each of you who took the time and effort to file comments on the EIS or to speak at the public hearings.

Your input was essential to show that this crop should be fully deregulated as soon as possible. Your involvement makes a difference. We continue our efforts in the courts to defend our ability to produce the crop under the partial deregulation until the EIS is completed.

There is no specific timeline for the court to make its decisions and it serves no purpose to publicly speculate as to when the court will act or what it might do.

2012 Elections

What a year this will be for the elections. A battle for the White House at the top of the ticket along with new congressional districts in the House, potential shift of control in the Senate, low approval ratings for Congress, staggering deficits and volatile voters.

It is hard for Congress to function in an election year when everything that is done will be used for or against members in their political races.

We have a busy year ahead as we continue to remind incumbents and educate candidates on the benefits of a strong sugar policy.

With the strong political support of our growers, we are up to the task of telling the good news about our industry and our policy. It will be a very interesting and challenging year.

ASGA Annual Meeting

We have a great lineup this year of interesting speakers who will touch on the various critical issues that face our industry in 2012. We hope you plan to join us in Orlando to learn about the key issues and be ready to take charge of our destiny in 2012. For more information, please visit our website at www.americansugarbeet.org.