The Sugar Beat
Sugar farmers from across the country descended on Capitol Hill the last week of February and first week of March to make the case for continuing the current sugar policy in the next Farm Bill.
And according to growers who made the trip, they were well received by the hundreds of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
“People understand the low-price environment we’re currently facing, the fact that sugar policy hasn’t cost taxpayers a dime, and that the policy has worked well for America,” said Kelly Erickson, a Minnesota sugar farmer and current president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.
At each meeting, farmers hand delivered a new information packet explaining the economic importance of sugar policy’s continuation. Among the contents of that kit:
Louisiana is among the states most dependent on a strong sugar sector, so it should come as no surprise that farmers from that state were present in scores of meetings. Their case was bolstered by high-profile articles written by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and former Congressman Jeff Landry (R-LA), which were circulated throughout the Hill during the farmer fly-in.
“We are blessed to have a Congressional delegation that is so supportive of the industry and is willing to help educate their colleagues,” said Jim Simon, president of the Louisiana-based American Sugar Cane League.
In addition to meeting with members face to face, sugar producers also spread their message through an extensive advertising campaign, which appeared in The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Hill, Roll Call, Politico, and National Journal. A series of online ads also ran in The Daily Caller, Red State, and TheHill.com.
“We are hopeful our recent meetings made a difference and continued to solidify strong bipartisan support for a policy that is so essential to America’s food supply,” explained Justin Sobie, a Florida sugar farmer who made the trip. “But this was just the first step of a much bigger education effort. We look forward to continuing the conversation, and seeing an extension of sugar policy.”
U.S. sugar policy was continued as part of the farm bills passed by the full Senate and by the House Agriculture Committee last year. Neither measure became law, so the farm bill debate starts again in 2013.
Large food manufacturers, namely Big Candy companies, are bankrolling lobbying efforts to outsource U.S. sugar production to heavily subsidized foreign producers like Mexico and Brazil.
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