Imperial Valley Press

The truth of sugar policy ‘reform’

- SUZANNE RUTHERFORD Brawley

It was disappoint­ing that the IV Press would print an op-ed on Sunday, May 20, regarding Farm Bill sugar policy reform that was written by a syndicated columnist rather than take the time to gather facts about an issue that directly impacts farmers of 25,000 acres of sugar beets in the Imperial Valley. This Washington, D.C., writer had obviously jumped on the Foxx-Davis Amendment bandwagon which, fortunatel­y for American sugar beet and sugarcane producers, had already crashed and burned on May 18 with a 198-213 vote defeat in the House of Representa­tives. Though the overall Farm Bill vote has been postponed, this harmful amendment has been soundly rejected in favor of agricultur­e, and our local community should know the facts.

Had local sugar-beet growers been given the opportunit­y to explain why we strongly opposed the proposed sugar policy “reform,” we would have told you that it would have destroyed the American sugar industry and put us out of business.

Current sugar policy in the Farm Bill works well for farmers and is designed to operate at no cost to the taxpayer. It has done so for years, with the exception of one year when Mexico violated U.S. trade agreements and dumped its government-subsidized sugar on our market. This was a trade issue that has been resolved between the two government­s.

American sugar growers do not receive government subsidies. The processors, which are run by grower-owned cooperativ­es such as Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperativ­e that owns Spreckels Sugar in Brawley, take out short-term, non-recourse loans that are repaid to the government with interest. This allows the processor to pay the grower for his crop at harvest, who in turn pays his operating costs and prepares for the next crop.

Processors store the sugar at no cost to the customer until that bakery or confection­er orders sugar to meet their needs. This method keeps our sugar flowing to customers throughout Southern California and keeps a lot of people working.

In the 1980s, there was 2 cents worth of sugar in a 35-cent Hershey bar. Today, there is still 2 cents worth of sugar in a Hershey bar, but the cost to the consumer has tripled at $1.50. If you do the math, it’s obvious that the tripled cost is not because of the high price of sugar contained in that candy bar.

In the grocery store, Americans actually pay less than the global average price for sugar. Confection­ers, however, would like to pay practicall­y nothing for sugar. To that end they backed the “Sugar Policy Modernizat­ion Act” which would have flooded our market with foreign-subsidized sugar and knocked American sugar growers completely off the tilted playing field. We’re extremely efficient at what we do, but simply cannot compete with foreign government­s’ treasuries.

Thankfully, members of Congress saw through the misinforma­tion and defeated the Foxx-Davis Amendment. Had this harmful legislatio­n been adopted, the sugar industry across the United States would have gone away. It would have ended 142,000 jobs in 22 states, including all sugar-related jobs in the Imperial Valley, and outsourced them to countries that in some cases operate without safety regulation­s and child-labor laws. It’s why beet growers from California and Minnesota along with sugarcane growers from Louisiana have teamed up for years to advocate for our industry in Washington, D.C. And it’s why we must remain vigilant in order to protect our industry and the Imperial Valley livelihood­s it supports.

There are plenty of local folks who are happy to answer questions about local issues. Just ask.

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