Holding Pattern

Published in the January 2014 Issue Published online: Jan 03, 2014 Allen Thayer
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The U.S. House returned to session Dec. 2, with the farm bill still a work in progress.

Four principal negotiators—House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., did not meet their own deadline of reaching a framework for a conference report before taking a break for the holidays.

Sugar growers and everyone else in the ag industry have gotten used to such inaction unfortunately.

The four negotiators and the Agriculture Department have warned that if a new bill is not signed by Dec. 31, the USDA will have to start using the 1949 dairy program and that would result in higher milk prices. But the date to watch is for a new farm bill is Jan. 15, when the current continuing resolution funding the government runs out.

Of greater concern to sugar growers is the collapse of the sugar market caused by overproduction in Mexico.

You can read more about this in this month’s ASGA column on page 8.

Equally concerning is the apparent lapse by the national media in blaming U.S. sugar prices for pushing confectioners abroad. Take a closer look at this issue in the ASA column on page 30.

Andrew Briscoe, president and CEO of The Sugar Association, can relate to such slights. You may remember the article entitled “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” in the December 2012 issue of Mother Jones in which The Sugar Association is alleged to have used “big tobacco” tactics beginning in the 1970s to “buy” research or government influence to avoid a finding that sugar consumption is related to adverse health consequences.

“Our review did not reveal any evidence that The Sugar Association attempted to influence improperly the results of research, concealed or encouraged the concealment of research findings,” Briscoe said. “The unsupported notion that the sugar industry participated in a vast conspiracy involving prominent scientists who were independently chosen for their experience and judgment to evaluate the safety of hundreds of different substances, in order to improperly influence the government’s reaffirmation of the safety of a single substance—sugar—reflects Mother Jones’ poor journalism.

“Obesity and metabolic disease are serious issues—and both are more prevalent now than in the past decades,” Briscoe added. “The Sugar Association remains resolved to play a positive and constructive role in helping our nation address these health problems and is continuing to work cooperatively with the scientific community and government regulatory agencies to examine the role of sugar in our diets.”

This issue of Sugar Producer does look at another side of the sugar industry away from politics and national media on page 16 with your introduction to 2014 Grower of the Year Mark Arnold. His story pertains to all growers.