Jack Roney Honored With Dyer Memorial Award At Sugar Club

Published online: Mar 24, 2023 News
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New York - Yesterday, Jack Roney, the former Director of Economics and Policy Analysis at the American Sugar Alliance, was honored at a Sugar Club dinner in New York City where he received the coveted Dyer Memorial Award 2021.

The pandemic delayed the annual award until this year as Roney was named the 2021 winner.

Following is what was said prior to Roney receiving the award.

“Jack Roney, you had a truly remarkable career in the sugar industry for 32 years. Your contributions to the industry have been unique and you have helped numerous people in their careers along the way.

“Prior to joining the sugar industry, you served for 15 years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where, among other things, you helped create the monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, which remains an agriculture bellwether to this day.   

“In 1989, you joined the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association as its Washington representative. While there you represented the industry on all matters regarding federal sugar policy. In that capacity you also served on the executive board of the American Sugar Alliance.

“After the HSPA closed its office in 1996, you became the first Director of Economics and Policy Analysis representing ASA on matters of domestic and trade policy. You helped develop many of the ASA’s key approaches to promoting and defending U.S. sugar policy.

“You testified on behalf of the sugar industry at numerous Congressional and executive branch hearings and addressed many international conferences. You appeared frequently on television and radio programs. You served as chairman of the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Sweeteners and Sweetener Products, the private sector trade policy advisory group formed by the U.S. Government.

“You also served as president of the Sugar Club, the international sugar industry forum.    You did your undergraduate studies at Fordham University in New York City and the University of Cologne in Germany. You earned graduate degrees at American University and at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International studies, both in Washington, D.C.   

“Through all this you have been dedicated to your family, community and nation.  Together, you and your wife Deborah have two grown children, Kyle and Alison.

"During the course of your long career in the sugar industry you have gained widespread respect within the industry for your ability and integrity.

“Your many outstanding accomplishments are a credit to the sugar industry. It is an honor to add your name to the roll of distinguished recipients of the Dyer Memorial Award.  

"Jack Roney, the industry salutes you as the winner of the Dyer Memorial Award 2021.”

Following is Roney’s acceptance speech.

“Thank you for naming me the Sugar Club Dyer Memorial Award winner for 2021. It is the honor of a lifetime and the perfect culmination to my 47-year career in agricultural and sugar policy in Washington, D.C.

“I hardly dared hope that I one day might receive this award. Pretty amazing for a kid from the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. When I look at the list of past winners, I see titans of our industry – sugar company CEOs such as Brian O’Malley who has honored me with his presence tonight. It is humbling to think of myself in the company of such sugar industry giants.

“It has been gratifying to see the recognition the Sugar Club and Dyer company has given to industry players who never produced sugar, but made a career of representing sugar producers in Washington, trying to secure legislation that might allow the growers to stay in business. These past Dyer Memorial Award winners include Jimmy Johnson, Dalton Yancey and Nick Kominus who are still with us, and Van Olson, Eiler Ravnholt, and Horace Godfrey, who sadly are not. 

“All these gentlemen patiently and generously taught me the importance and the intricacies of federal sugar policy. I am especially grateful to Eiler, who recruited me from USDA to succeed him as the Washington representative for the Hawaiian sugar industry. Eiler emphasized to me the importance of careful analysis, integrity and credibility in formulating our arguments to defend U.S. sugar policy in Congress and in the public arena.

“My special thanks to Vickie Myers, Executive Director of the American Sugar Alliance. Vickie and I joined the sugar industry the same year and what a privilege it was to work with this extraordinarily capable, dedicated, thoughtful person these 32 years. What a generous parting gesture for Vickie to have nominated me for this award.

“I am grateful to the Dyer Memorial Award judges, Perry Cerminara of Hershey, Mark Olson of American Sugar Refining, and Rodney Perry of Western Sugar. I would add that the composition of this panel says a lot about our industry – leaders of our sugar-purchasing, cane-sugar-producing and beet-sugar-producing sectors. Competitors in the marketplace and in the policy arena, but gentlemen who can respectfully, intelligently disagree and who recognize the value of staying together to defend the U.S. sugar-producing and consuming industry. And who can genuinely be friends. 

“In this unfortunate era of extreme political polarization, it is reassuring to see there are still people who can disagree, but do so thoughtfully and respectfully. 

“I worked in several commodity areas during my 15 years at USDA, my last four in sugar. What struck me then, and has stayed with me, is the sense of family in the sugar industry – much more so than in the larger grain and livestock sectors that I had worked with.

“One way we see that closeness is the companies that have stayed in the same family for generations. Two such companies are represented here tonight. It’s wonderful to see third-generation Chip Dyer, along with his son, the fourth-generation Chase Dyer. We are all so grateful that the Dyer family has sustained the warm tradition of the Dyer Memorial Award, dating back to 1958. A rich symbol of the respect that we have for each other and for our industry leaders.

“Another multigenerational sugar company represented tonight is A.N. Smith and Company, which was founded in 1886. Chip Smith is its fifth-generation leader. Sadly, we lost Chip’s Dad, Neale, this past year – knowledgeable, kind, and one of the true gentlemen of our industry. Chip Smith continues in that tradition, as does Chase Dyer.

“Another way we see sugar as family is how frequently folks who leave the industry eventually return to it. Plus, the folks who, even after retirement, maintain a presence in the industry – gentlemen such as Nick Kominus and Bob Vorsanger, who have done so much to sustain the tradition of the Sugar Club.

“Perhaps the most obvious example of sugar as a family is at the sugarbeet and sugarcane farm level. Thousands of family farms are the backbone of our industry. If I were to describe the purpose of my career, it would be that I strove to help American sugar farmers be able to pass their farms along to their sons and daughters. 

“I certainly haven’t succeeded in every case, but I have enjoyed the deep gratification of working with the offspring of many beet and cane farmers. I can hardly describe the joy I derive from that, and how I blessed I have been to have that kind of meaning in my career.

“If there is one person I can never thank enough for giving me the opportunity to forge a gratifying career it is my dear wife, Deborah. Debi sacrificed a career in medicine to devote herself to our family, managing our household, raising our two wonderful children, Kyle and Alison. With Debi unselfishly holding down the home front, I was able to focus on my work, all day, every day.

“It is a tradition of Dyer Memorial Award winners to provide some parting nuggets of wisdom for the industry we have served. I’d like to share two thoughts.

“One is to work together to defend sugar consumption. I am well aware of the tension between the producers and purchasers of sugar regarding sugar prices. That will always be the case and is good for a healthy, competitive industry.

“Our common cause is to unite, to whatever extent we can, to refute misinformed attacks on sugar and health. One unfortunate example I have often cited concerns obesity. Sharply rising U.S. rates of child and adult obesity amount to a genuine public health epidemic. It is a complex problem and must be addressed intelligently. What has been so frustrating has been the tendency of some observers to simplify the problem and scapegoat sugar as the overwhelming source of the epidemic – even as per capita consumption of sugar and other caloric sweeteners has fallen about 20 percent this century. Folks looking for a single culprit ignore that fact and that per capita consumption of all foods has risen about 20 percent since the 1970s. More calories, less exercise – could this be a reason Americans are heavier than ever?

“My second piece of parting counsel is really more of a request. While sectors of our sugar producing, marketing, trading, and consuming industries may differ on many occasions, please continue to do so thoughtfully and with respect for each other. Families may squabble, but we are a family, in any event. Let’s revel in the privilege of providing Americans with such a joy-inducing product as sugar.

“I thank my American sugar producers for allowing me the honor of representing them in Washington. And I thank the Sugar Club and the Dyer family for considering me worthy of this cherished award.”