Where the Current Farm Bill Fight Stands

Published online: Aug 08, 2018 News Luther Markwart
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This article appears in the August/September 2018 issue of Sugar Producer

In a battle over sugar policy, it is important to understand who is against you, what they attempted to accomplish, and the results of their efforts. This article is intended to give you a perspective on the players and the dynamics of the battle.

The Opponents

“The Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy” is the umbrella group of our opponents. All their efforts are coordinated by the following groups from seven different perspectives, backed by a coordinated and aggressive public relations effort.

  • Food Manufacturers: Sweetener Users Association, National Confectioners Association, Grocery Manufacturers, SNAC International, American Bakers Association, Independent Bakers Association,  Retail Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, Food Marketing Institute, American Frozen Food Institute, International Dairy Foods Association, Peanut and Tree Nut Association. Each of the 435 congressional districts has sugar users in it.
  • Business Organizations: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Free Trade & Less Government: Heritage Action for America, Club for Growth, conservative groups trying to score the vote on sugar, Americans for Prosperity, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, American Commitment, CATO Institute, Free the People, Center for Individual Freedom, Independent Women’s Voice
  • International Trade: National Foreign Trade Council, Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity
  • Taxpayer Groups: Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayer Protection Alliance, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Coalition to Reduce Spending, Center for Freedom and Prosperity
  • Consumer Groups: Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, Consumer Choice Center
  • Environmental Groups: Everglades Trust, bullsugar.org
  • Media: Editorial boards of many major newspapers, who target some congressional districts with sugar user opinion articles

What Did They Want?

The amendments were the same in the House and Senate—sponsored primarily in the House by North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx and Illinois’s Danny Davis (81 co-sponsors), and in the Senate by New Hampshire’s Jean Shaheen and Pat Toomey (with 20 co-sponsors). Provisions of the bills included:

  • Reduced loan rate by .96 cents per pound, resulting in a reduction of beet farmer income of approximately $90 per acre. There would be an annual shift of $148 million from beet and cane producers to users, and a total of $740 million over the five-year farm bill. This does not factor in the oversupply of the market, which would further depress the price.
  • Repealed marketing allotments, which is a taxpayer protection provision.
  • Higher maintained sugar stocks to achieve lower prices. The higher stocks on top of the lower loan rate would further reduce income to producers.
  • Repealed feedstock flexibility. Instead of removing sugar immediately from the marketplace for non-human use in the event of a sugar forfeiture to the government, the sugar would be held in producers’ warehouses and sold into the food market at the lowest price possible. This creates storage problems for producers, extends the price depression and threatens even more forfeitures in future years. 
  • Allowing for quota-holding countries that could not ship to the U.S. to sell their quota to other foreign suppliers each year. Those suppliers could then ship their sugar to the U.S. even if the market is oversupplied.

The beet and cane industries prevailed in the House by a vote of 278 to 137. Of the 126 members who had never voted on a farm bill, 84 of those voted with us. While the first vote to pass the bill failed over demands for a vote on an immigration bill, the bill passed a second time by a vote of 213 to 211, with no Democratic votes for the bill.

While efforts were made to offer an anti-sugar amendment in the Senate, it was objected to by a single senator and therefore not allowed to be offered. The final passage was with a strong bipartisan support of 86 to 11.

Now, both versions of the Farm Bill will have to be reconciled with one another so one bill, called a “conference report,” emerges for both houses to vote on without being amended, after which it can be signed by the president. There is no specific timetable to complete the report, but the hope here is that they can complete their work by the end of September when the current bill expires.

Successfully fighting back the many forces against U.S. sugar policy has been a long and difficult effort. It has taken a tremendous amount of time, effort and resources by many dedicated and talented individuals in our industry and hard work by our allies in the House and Senate to fight off the attack. Thank you to all of the growers for your support in so many ways to help us achieve our goal of the renewal of U.S. sugar policy.