The holidays got a little happier for farmers and ranchers last week as President Donald Trump officially signed the 2018 Farm Bill, and with it, extended U.S. sugar policy for another five years.
“U.S. agriculture’s future is brighter thanks to the hard work and support of President Trump, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Chairmen Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Conaway (R-TX), and Ranking Members Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Collin Peterson (D-MN),” said American Sugar Alliance Chairman Ryan Weston. “On behalf of America’s sugar industry, thank you.”
Sugar producers have been vocal supporters of the new Farm Bill, which they say will help rural America cope with slumping commodity prices and extreme weather.
“No matter what you grow or where you grow it, you’ve been struggling this year,” said Rick Gerstenberger, a Michigan farmer who grows sugarbeets, corn, soybeans and wheat. “This bill gives us the ability to make long-term plans and gives our lenders the confidence they need to extend the capital necessary to cash-flow our farms.”
Gerstenberger, who serves as president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, was one of numerous growers who flew to Washington, DC, on several occasions in 2018 to meet with Congress.
“Sugar is very important in my community. It creates a lot of jobs,” he noted. “I wanted to get that message to Congress, so they knew that a strong sugar policy protects family farms and good local jobs.”
Lawmakers heard the message loud and clear. And when opponents of farm policy tried to dismantle U.S. sugar policy in favor of subsidized foreign imports, the U.S. House of Representatives dealt them a decisive defeat by a bipartisan 141-vote margin.
Supporting America’s 142,000 sugar jobs became a reoccurring theme throughout the debate, and many of those jobs were spotlighted as part of a new industry campaign called Faces of Sugar Policy.
“Don’t cut my family out of the Farm Bill” was the campaign’s rallying cry.
It was a message that Cornelius Fowler, a member of the IAM Florida Sugar Workers Union, was all too happy to deliver. Without sugar policy, we have “no land, no future, no job, no home,” Fowler explained.
Sugar policy in the new Farm Bill is similar to the successful policy of the 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills. It keeps unneeded subsidized foreign sugar from flooding the market and provides producers with loans that are repaid with interest, thus operating without taxpayer cost. In addition, the 2018 Farm Bill provides loan rate increases to more than a dozen commodities, including sugar, to help ease the mounting economic pressures.
The industry’s attention will now turn to implementing the new law and protecting it from future attacks.