<![CDATA[The Sugarbeet Grower Magazine - Dateline Washington]]>Thu, 24 Apr 2014 09:57:02 -0600EditMySite<![CDATA[Dateline Washington January 2014]]>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 17:56:10 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2014/01/dateline-washington-january-2014.htmlDateline Washington by Luther Markwart
Boredom is not an occupational hazard in the sugar industry. There are many diverse issues on the 2014 agenda that will impact our industry and that your grower and processor leaders will be watching and working on throughout the year.

Farm Bill — After three years of contentious battles in a toxic political environment, congressional approval of a five-year farm bill is likely in January and will be sent to the President for his signature. There has been more work on this bill than you have seen or can imagine to get it across the finish line. Again, we thank the champions of sugar policy in both the House and Senate for the great work they have done to maintain our policy and sustain our industry.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

The Market — The collapse of the sugar market is on everyone’s mind, every day. The massive amounts of sugar driven into our market by Mexico, as allowed by the NAFTA, have brought great harm to producers in the form of substantially reduced beet checks, and to the American taxpayers — who spent $278 million to dispose of the Mexican surplus. We are outraged over the injury it has inflicted upon us.

USDA has quickly disposed of forfeited sugar to non-human consumption uses, such as ethanol and as feed for cattle and bees in order to remove surplus stocks from the market. It has limited tools for taking additional steps to bring the market further back into balance, and can only do so when there are serious threats of additional forfeitures.

For many years, your industry leaders have conveyed to their Mexican counterparts the need for their government and industry to embrace a market-balancing policy to avoid severe surpluses and deficits that injure both producers and consumers in the North American market. It has been a persistent, patient, thoughtful and diplomatic effort to make sure that the NAFTA worked for everyone. Unfortunately, our sound advice was not heeded in a timely manner. So we turn to those historic words spoken by President Lincoln in his annual address to Congress in 1862: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Over the course of 2014, we will be taking various actions toward balancing the market once again. Your grower and cooperative
leaders will keep you apprised of activities as they occur.

Trans-Pacific Partnership -- The Obama Administration is working hard to complete the trade agreement in the first quarter of 2014. As with any trade agreement, providing more access to our sugar market when it is already oversupplied by Mexico is a problem. The U.S. sugar market is only so large, and the unlimited access for Mexico limits what could be provided in future agreements. Sugar is clearly the most sensitive commodity issue in these negotiations, and the difficult issues are always the last to be
settled.

Whatever is agreed to has a direct impact on the ability of U.S. sugar policy to function as it is intended. Our negotiators are quite aware of the sensitivities with our industry.

Biotech — Three key issues will demand our attention in 2014. First, there will be a ballot initiative in

Over the course of
2014, we will be
taking various actions
toward balancing the
market once again.

Jackson County, Oregon, to prohibit the production of any biotech crop in the county. Jackson County is where some of our “basic” beet seed is grown, which is then used to produce commercial sugarbeet seed in the Willamette Valley. So this initiative has a direct impact on important aspects of some of our seed production.

Jackson County voters will cast their ballots by mail beginning on May 6. It is important that our industry strongly oppose these types of initiatives.

The second key issue will be over the labeling of consumer packaging in which product ingredients are derived from biotech plants. We have seen ballot measures fail in close votes in California and Washington state, but some victories in the Northeast by anti-biotech activists to move this direction. This debate will be very big in 2014, and is one to watch very closely.

The third key issue is the introduction of biotech crops in Russia and the Ukraine. These two countries have the largest sugarbeet acreage in the world, and they are moving quickly to put a regulatory process in place to produce biotech crops in their countries. While actual commercialization of biotech sugarbeets may be a few years down the road, we are seeing the initial moves by the governments to put an approval process in place this year.

Election Year — Of course, the mid-term elections are only 10 months away, and we will again see several new faces in both the House and Senate. We will be spending a great deal of time talking to candidates about the importance of a strong domestic sugar industry.

Internship — We will be accepting applications for an internship this year in the ASGA office. Please visit our website and submit applications to our office before the end of March.
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<![CDATA[Dateline Washington Nov/Dec 2013]]>Thu, 07 Nov 2013 18:09:43 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/11/dateline-washington-novdec-2014.htmlDateline Washington The Sugarbeet Grower Magazine
Farm Bill

As of the middle of November, key agricultural congressional leaders working to resolve the differences between the House and Senate bills were signaling, with a level of confidence, that a farm bill would be passed before the end of the year. It has taken far too long, there are far too many reforms, there are genuine and significant spending reductions, and it will solve international agricultural trade disputes. It will be one of the few actions taken by the Congress this year that achieves all of those objectives.

Oh, and by the way, next year is an election year. Members of Congress know they need to get this off of their plate.

Since the sugar provisions are the same in both the House and Senate versions, no changes are expected in our policy in the final farm bill.

Once the conference report is completed, American agriculture needs to lock arms and get this bill passed and signed by the President. 

Rebalancing the Market

Everyone recognizes that U.S. sugar prices collapsed as massive Mexican surpluses moved north and oversupplied our market. Several actions have been taken by USDA since mid-July to reduce supplies and rebalance the domestic market. The bottom line is that by September 30th (the end of the fiscal year), 603,878 metric tons (665,655 short  tons) were removed from the market at a cost to the government of $278,200,000.

This is the first cost of the program to the government in more than a decade. While sugar users rail against government expenditures, they fail to mention that their proposal for a sugar policy in the 2008 farm bill was for the government to spend $1.5 billion in direct subsidies to growers every year so we could stay in business and they could buy cheap sugar at world prices.

Much of the sugar is being offered for the commercial production of ethanol, so it is removed from the market to avoid forfeitures in this fiscal year that ends September 30, 2014. While domestic stocks remain excessive, there are two important factors yet to consider.

First, Mexico may finally realize that shipping all of its surplus north is unsustainable, and it is in their best long-term interest to find other foreign destinations for their sugar.

Second, the beet crop is not yet processed, the cane crop is not yet harvested, and the Mexican harvest will not finish until the summer of 2014. There are many unpredictable weather events that can still change the supply across North America.

I can also assure you that growers’ concerns have been heard at the highest levels at USDA and the Trade Representative’s offices, and other tools are being evaluated to ad- dress this problem in order to pre- serve an adequate safety net for our producers and avoid taxpayer costs.
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Biotech

Washington state voters defeated a ballot measure — by 55% to 45% — that would have required mandatory labeling of foods that contain or are derived from biotech crops. This fol- lows on the heels of the defeat of the ballot initiative in California last year. You will see an effort in the weeks ahead to address the labeling issue at the federal level in response to the state legislative and ballot initiatives in various states. 

Internship

ASGA will be offering an intern- ship program for 2014. The term of internship will be between June and August and last 6-8 weeks. Throughout the program, the intern will participate in a variety of tasks and projects necessary to the functionality of the Association. The intern will have an opportunity to meet with members of Congress and gain an understanding of the political process of an effective lobbying organization. Applications will be accepted beginning January 1 through March 31, 2014. You can find the application and details on our website.

2014 Annual Meeting

ASGA’s 2014 annual meeting will be held in Tampa, Fla., February 9- 11 at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel and Marina. This world-class downtown Tampa hotel overlooks Tampa Bay and is near Ybor City, with lots of shopping and restau- rants within walking distance. The ASGA golf tournament is scheduled for the morning of February 9 at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club (Copperhead Course). The Innis- brook Golf Club is world-renowned for its courses.

To register and make hotel reservations, visit www.americansugarbeet.org. If you have any questions, please call 202-833-2398.

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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington   July/August 2013]]>Tue, 06 Aug 2013 19:36:01 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/08/dateline-washington-julyaugust-2013.html2013 Farm Bill
 
     With the current farm bill expiring on September 30 and the evaporating number of legislative days to complete work on the new bill, there will be an all-out sprint to try to complete action as soon as politically possible.  To this point, the path to reauthorizing the farm bill has been both tumultuous and unpredictable. It is the most caustic political environment we have ever seen to move a farm bill through Congress. 
     We are now waiting for the House to complete its work on the nutrition provisions in a separate bill so that it can be rejoined with the rest of the farm bill, and the House and Senate to negotiate the differences between the two bills for a final conference report.  The conference report will then be taken back to both bodies for final approval, without amendment.  If either body finds provisions in the final bill that are unacceptable, it can be sent back to the conference with instructions to remove or modify certain provisions. 
     Once the President receives a conference report passed by both houses, he may sign or veto the bill.  The Senate will not pass, and the President will not sign, a farm bill that does not include a nutrition title.  
     As you can see, there is a great deal of work yet to do over the next two months, and Congress will be out during August on recess.  There are lots of theories, but no guarantees how this process will play out.
     If you had the opportunity to watch the debate on the House floor, there should be no doubt of the massive political challenges facing any major legislation in the House.  When a farm bill is completed, it will be done because of the leadership and the respect and integrity of the two leaders on the House Agriculture Committee.  Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) both have the tremendous respect of the vast majority of members and agricultural organizations.  The members of the House trust those two dedicated and thoughtful leaders to bring this legislative marathon to a close.  There is a certain farm bill fatigue that is rightfully wearing on the members. 
     The sugar provisions are identical in both the House and Senate bills, and a continuation of current policy. It has been the most difficult battle since the sugar votes on the 1996 farm bill.  We defeated an amendment in the House, 221-206, by Congressman Joe Pitts (R-PA) that would have devastated domestic sugar policy.  In the Senate, we fought off three amendments over the past two years. This was an all-out battle, and you can thank your members of Congress, industry leaders and representatives for their tremendous work to defeat these vicious and relentless attacks by sugars users, rightwing organizations and members of Congress.  

Rebalancing the Market
  
     The USDA took actions on June 17 and 25 to reduce the domestic sugar oversupply and the cost of the CCC Sugar Loan Program.  Nearly 300,000 metric tons were removed from the market by retiring credits under the Refined Sugar Re-export Program and Certificates of Quota Eligibility under the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.  This action cost the CCC $43.8 million, but averted an expected $110.7 million in loan forfeitures — thus saving taxpayers $66.9 million.  The question still remains whether this will be enough action to bolster the market and avoid forfeitures that could come as early as the end of July.  Given the structural limits to their two previous actions, if USDA needs to remove additional sugar, it may now need to look to the Feedstock Flexibility Program to divert sugar to ethanol.  Industry leaders are closely monitoring the situation, with hopes that forfeitures can be averted. 
     Mexico will send us about 900,000 tons more sugar this year than last year, which is the main cause of the oversupply in the market.  The Mexican government has thus far taken no action to help balance the North American sugar market, leaving the burden to do so squarely on the backs of the U.S. government (taxpayers) and injuring the U.S. sugar industry. 
  
2014 ASGA Annual Meeting
  
     For those of you making your winter travel and meeting plans, be sure to reserve February 9-11 in Tampa, Fla.  For further information, visit americansugarbeet.org.
     ASGA annual meeting program, speakers and online registration will be available in early November. 
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington   April/May 2013]]>Thu, 25 Apr 2013 18:52:21 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/04/dateline-washington-aprilmay-2013.html    The first three months of 2013 brought us a new Congress that was settling in . . . a second term of a President with a renewed agenda . . . and plenty of battles over the economic course of our nation between the House, Senate and the White House. 
    Spirited debates over fiscal cliffs, sequestration, continuing resolutions, debt ceiling increases, etc., focused on where more money could be raised for the federal government and where and how to cut spending.         Sprinkle in a spirited debate over gun control and a race by both parties to fix a broken immigration and guest worker system to attract the ever-increasing and influential Latino vote in state and national elections. 
    It has not been an easy three months, but tough decisions are never easy. 
    Everyone agrees that across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) are the worst way to reduce federal spending; but allowing it to occur sets in motion congressional efforts to find a better way of reducing spending.  All of the committees in Congress will have an obligation to find ways to cut expenditures for future programs.  The agriculture committees have already shown us that they can accomplish this in a thoughtful way.

    Farm Bill — It now appears that the leadership of both houses of Congress wishes to complete a farm bill this year.  The House and Senate ag committees will be drafting legislation under two very different budget resolutions.  Non-binding, resolutions are a guide as to how much should be cut from programs and policies, but the cuts do not have to all come in the farm bill package.  It appears that the Senate is content with the $23 billion reduction over 10 years in agriculture policy that passed the Senate last year, but we are likely to see modifications to proposals on southern crops (rice and peanuts) that would garner more support for the farm bill from southern senators.     The House bill will need more savings — somewhere near the $31 billion over 10 years.  The real battle will be over food stamp — or the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) — spending in the bill. 
    As of the first of April, it now looks like the committees will be drafting the farm bill in May.  The committees typically do not like to let their passed bills linger on hold before taking them to the floor to avoid the opponents of the bill the opportunity to rail against it.  How and when the bills receive floor consideration remains unclear.
    As for sugar policy, we see strong support in both agriculture committees, as we did last year. The real fights will be on the floor when each body takes up the debate.  It will be critical for the commodity groups and farm organizations to work together and support one another in a unified effort to get the bill passed.  When sugar policy opponents in the Senate contemplated attacks in both the continuing resolution and the budget resolution earlier this year, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, along with other commodity groups, stood firm with sugar to oppose harmful amendments.  We deeply appreciate their support to defend our policy.
    In February and March, your grower leaders walked the halls of the House and Senate office buildings to educate members and staff of the need for the continuation of the current sugar provisions and to ask them to oppose any proposed amendment.  With almost half of the U.S. House having never voted on a farm bill, there is a huge educational process that must be done by congressional leaders and industry representatives. Each and every day, we are explaining the need for our policy to sustain our domestic industry for the benefit of food security for American consumers, rural jobs and putting $20 billion into the U.S. economy at no cost to taxpayers.

    The Market — Unfortunately, we are in the worst market we have seen in many years.  Bumper beet and cane crops in the U.S. and Mexico and excess imports from our other trading partners have clearly resulted in oversupply. 
    In order to avoid sugar forfeitures on August 1, USDA is working feverishly to find creative ways to get the market back in balance as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The 2008 farm bill was designed to avoid massive costly forfeitures by removing sugar from the market and disposing of it so it does not overhang the market and cause a multi-year problem.         Given the market sensitivity of both timing and volumes of sugar that could be removed from the market this year, USDA is keeping its options very close to the vest.  Staffs who are working on the oversupply problem are seasoned professionals, and we are anxiously awaiting an announcement of an action plan to address our problem.  The solution is not simple, because we are dealing with a North American market that has three separate industries, different domestic sugar policies and no trade restrictions.

    2013 Acreage — While U.S. beet acreage is projected to be down by 19,000 this year, a later spring will have a much bigger impact than reduced acreage on final sugar production from the 2013 crop.    
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington / March 2013]]>Tue, 19 Mar 2013 19:59:34 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/03/dateline-washington-march-2013.html    How well do you remember 1985? Twenty eight years ago, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.20, a movie ticket was $2.75, a stamp cost 22 cents, and a car cost $9,000.  Microsoft introduced Windows 1.0 that year, President Reagan first met Mikhail Gorbachev (Soviet Union), the first mobile phone call in England was made, Christa McAuliffe was chosen to be the first teacher to fly on the space shuttle Challenger, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was born, and the hit movie was “Back to the Future.”  
    In 1985, the average raw cane sugar price was 20.34 cents per pound (same as it is today); the Midwest wholesale price of refined beet sugar was 23 cents a pound (28-30 cents today); and the retail price was 35 cents a pound (68 cents today).
    On Valentine’s Day this year, the Coalition for Sugar Reform and their congressional champions unveiled their “Sugar Reform Act” for the 2013 farm bill.  The essence of the bill is to take beet and cane growers back to loan levels that were established in 1985.  Buying inputs to run your business at prices that existed 28 years ago would certainly boost your short-term bottom line — but it would drive your suppliers out of business.  Since 1985, we have closed half of our beet and cane factories and mills because sugar prices were stagnated around the loan rate and input cost kept increasing.  Third-party investors abandoned the industry and sold the companies to growers — who in turn have embraced every possible efficiency they could find and afford just to stay in business.
    The sugar reform bills — HR 693 in the House and S. 345 in the Senate — would make numerous changes to current sugar policy, with the sole intent to assure that the sugar market is oversupplied all of the time.  It adds more risk to import decisions that would oversupply the market, requires producers to hold even larger surplus inventories, puts foreign suppliers ahead of American farmers, and effectively eliminates any surplus sugar to be used for ethanol production as a way to balance the market.
    Except for the loan rate, the secretary of agriculture could change any provisions of the policy, taking into account the interests of consumers, workers in the food industry, user businesses and the relative competitiveness of domestically-produced and imported foods containing sugar (dumped by subsidized foreign producers). 
    This proposal neither respects nor appreciates the work, risk and investment made by our farmers to deliver a superior product to their door whenever they want it.  It provides little certainty in order to plan and invest in the future
    Our opponents will peddle their reform proposal on Capitol Hill and to the media as a “modest change” that doesn’t repeal price supports, or marketing allotments, or import quotas.  It is the job of our industry leaders and congressional champions to tell the truth about the need of our current policy for the food security for our nation.  Your grower leaders will be delivering that message far and wide on Capitol Hill in February and March before the planting season begins.  Support them and show your appreciation to them in every way you can as they go about your telling your story to our nation’s policy makers.
   
    The farm bill schedule for 2013 has not and will not be firmed up until we get past the numerous battles over spending cuts during the next several weeks or even longer.  At this point, lawmakers have resigned themselves to the view that across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) will occur.  Everyone agrees that this is the worst way to cut spending; but given the polarized political entrenchment, we end up with a form of impromptu government leadership: “just make it up as you go along, from one crisis to another.”  All of agriculture has to play a strong defense during this period to avoid the pillaging of its policies to pay for the cost of other government programs.      
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington  /  February 2013]]>Sun, 24 Feb 2013 20:12:38 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/02/dateline-washington-february-2013.html    As the nation was hanging on by its fingernails to avoid a plunge off the fiscal cliff on New Year’s Day, a nine-month farm bill extension was thrown into the package to avert a huge jump in milk prices and other unmanageable elements of the 1949 Farm Act.  The purpose was to kick the can down the road a little further until bigger spending cuts across all government programs were clarified in the first quarter of the year. 
    While the fiscal cliff debate addressed the personal tax bracket issues, it did nothing to curb spending. The spending cut debate began on January 2 and will run until late March.  It will likely be more contentious than the tax debate. 
    In late February and first of March, the debt ceiling will need to be raised, and the automatic spending cuts for domestic programs and defense will occur unless cuts are made in a more thoughtful and calculated fashion. 
    Finally, on March 27, the government will shut down unless further funding is approved to finish the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013.  Each of these events will be used as a political opportunity to cut spending.  It will be a fierce battle that will play out in the daily headlines.
    Voters in the last election said they wanted government to fix our fiscal problems — and that required leadership by both parties in both Houses in Congress and the White House.  As we watch the debate over these critical weeks by all of these players, let’s remember the basic elements that define leadership and see how well they adhere to its basic principles.
    Definition of Leadership:
    1) Establish a clear vision.
    2) Share that vision with others so that they will follow willingly.
    3) Provide the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision.
    4) Coordinate and balance the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.
    5) A leader steps up in times of crisis and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.

    Until there is clarity of where spending cuts will be made, all congressional committees are in a holding pattern for moving legislation forward because they do not know how much they can spend.  So the agriculture committees in both chambers have to let that process play out before they make final adjustments to the farm bill that was designed last year. 
    Once the funding level is clarified, the Senate will likely go first, because it passed a bill last year and there is more confidence that with some changes to their bill, they can move it for full Senate approval and use it to pressure the House to act.
    The bigger challenges lie in the House, which refused to bring the farm bill to the floor last year once its own ag committee completed its work.  In early January, Ranking Member Collin Peterson made it very clear to House leadership that they would have to guarantee floor consideration before the Democrats on the committee would work on a bill. Again, since nothing of significance will happen before the end of March, we will witness these kinds of political battles.
   
    As for sugar policy, our customers were screaming about stronger prices during the past couple of years — but the market is now down about 50% from where it was a year ago. Markets go up and markets go down.   As we struggle with an oversupplied market, it makes it clear to policy makers that we need an adequate safety net and a policy that protects jobs, responds to unfair foreign trade practices, and is critically important to our food security and our rural economies.  Oh, by the way . . . our customers are doing just fine and enjoying much lower prices.
    The sugar market has been out of balance for a number of months now. Both the U.S. and Mexico had bumper crops in 2012, and additional imports were added to the market last April based on bad import data from Mexico. 
    I can assure you that addressing the core problems that caused of this oversupply is a high priority for your industry leaders.  Immediately after 420,000 tons of foreign sugar were added to the U.S. market last April, industry leaders from the U.S. and Mexico met with top U.S. government officials to discuss how to provide more accurate and timely data from Mexico to better manage our policy with greater accuracy and certainty.
    With low U.S. raw sugar prices near world price levels, there is less of an incentive for sugar suppliers from long distances to ship to our market.  There are multiple avenues of getting our market back in balance, but it will take time.     
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington   January 2013]]>Wed, 23 Jan 2013 20:45:40 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2013/01/dateline-washington-january-2013.html    Much of the time between Election Day and Christmas has been spent watching the two political gladiators (President Obama and House Speaker Boehner) battle over taxes and spending to avoid the fiscal cliff.  When the media and voters are fixated on both the battle and the outcome, it is a tremendous opportunity for both parties to further define themselves and their political opponents. 
    It has been said that in politics, “You never want to waste a crisis.”   So the nation must wait until all of the theatrics of the negotiations have played out.  With no time left on the clock, we pray that good decisions are made to chart a new and prosperous future for our country.  By time you read this article, it will be clear whether an agreement had been forged by our political leaders between Christmas and New Year’s.
— Farm Bill —
    There were great hopes that the 2012 farm bill would be made part of the final deal to help reduce our nation’s annual deficits and staggering debt.  The Administration, Senate and House Democrats wanted a farm bill as part of the final package, but House Republican leadership stalled those efforts at least until Christmas.  When Congress left for its brief Christmas holiday, all indications were there would be some form of brief extension of the 2008 farm bill, with plans to complete it in early 2013.  However, we are still in a period and a process where even the best predictions are, quite frankly, unpredictable.
    As for sugar policy, we are now in a very different market scenario than when the House Agriculture Committee and the full Senate considered our policy.  Given the oversupply of sugar in the world market, large beet and cane crops in both the U.S. and Mexico, and an additional 420,000 tons of imports allowed into the U.S. market (based on incorrect data at the time of the decision), we have seen both the raw and refined sugar markets collapse from previous-year levels.  Will sugar users pass on savings of lower prices to consumers?  They have not passed on savings in the past, and we do not expect that to occur in the future.  It will make their arguments much more difficult to defend in another public debate.
    Assuming the farm bill slips into next year and faces votes again in the Senate and House, there are many new members in both bodies that will need educating.  We have 87 new members in the House and 15 in the Senate.  With all of these new faces, we must work hard to educate them about the sugar industry and U.S. sugar policy. 
    We want to thank everyone who has participated in their political action committees, because it provides industry representatives the opportunity to speak directly to the members of Congress so they can better understand our issues and the strategic importance of our industry.

— Biotech —
    On November 15, the last appeal on a Roundup Ready® issue was ruled on, ending a long legal battle over biotechnology in sugarbeets.  We spent almost five years (1,755 days) in the courts during which we were engaged in four cases in two U.S. district courts (San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) and three appellate cases in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco).
    It is our sincere hope the opponents of biotechnology will now cease their attacks on our efforts to raise our crop in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way.  We have proven that the technology is safe, the sugar is the same as that from conventional production, and that our producers are great stewards in removing bolters and managing against weed resistance — because grower stewardship is essential to retain the value of the technology.
    Biotech opponents, however, are renewing their efforts to pass state ballot initiatives to require labeling of foods that contain ingredients from biotech crops.  While they lost such an effort in California last year, they are targeting Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.  We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other biotech crop producers to oppose such labeling efforts.  Our American Sugarbeet Growers Association has established a new Biotechnology and Research Committee to monitor and engage in these types of efforts for the years to come, and we are prepared to face the challenges and opportunities before us.

— Crop Insurance —
    Price election for 2013 will be $58.95, which is appropriate given the state of the current marketplace. One important change this year is that replant reimbursement will not be 1.5 times price election, but rather a fixed dollar amount of $80 per acre. We successfully sought this modification to avoid an annual battle to retain a more reasonable replant amount.  When sugar prices drop, replant costs do not, so this is a great improvement over our traditional coverage.
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington   November/December 2012]]>Fri, 07 Dec 2012 18:10:18 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2012/12/dateline-washington-novemberdecember-2012.html2012 Elections —
    President:  More than 120.8 million Americans voted for President in this election. With respect to the popular vote, President Obama received only 3.3 million votes (2.7%) more than Romney, which showed once again how divided our nation is when choosing its leader.  What surprises many people is that of the 538 electoral votes, the President received 332 votes (62%) vs. Romney’s 206 votes (38%). 
     What is also interesting is the number of counties that were carried by Obama and Romney.  There are 3,033 counties in the U.S.  The President won in fewer than 750 (24.7%) and Romney won more than 2,283 counties (75.3%).  The bottom line is that land does not vote — people do.  Democrats prevailed in the urban areas in key states.
    While his win is a result of a brilliant campaign strategy, the President knows that he must lead a politically divided nation. 
    There are various benefits to an incumbent being re-elected. Months are saved from one administration transitioning to another, and it allows them to focus on the pressing issues faced by our nation.  While new cabinet members will be replaced and new priorities set, it comes with much less disruption than a change in presidents.
     For the record, the USDA (sugar program administration, biotechnology, crop insurance, etc.) and the Trade Representative’s office have worked extremely well with our industry over the last four years, and we look forward to working with them over the next four years.
    Senate:  The Democrats and two Independents picked up Indiana and Massachusetts, making it 55D-45R.  We expect Chairwoman Stabenow from Michigan and Ranking Member Roberts from Kansas to continue to lead the Senate Agriculture Committee. We are waiting to see who will fill the committee positions vacated by Senators Conrad (ND), Nelson (NE) and Lugar (IN).
    House:  As of this writing, there are at least 85 new members of the House, with six races still being recounted or contested.  It was always clear that Republicans would continue to control the House by relatively the same margin.  The House Agriculture Committee has lost at least six members who are leaving Congress, and we will see if any other members leave to take other committee assignments.  If the farm bill slips into next year, we will have approximately 200 members who have never voted on a farm bill.  There is a great deal of work to do in 2013.

Lame Duck Agenda —
    Congress reconvened during the week of November 12 to reorganize and lay out the agenda for the remainder of 2012.  The issues surrounding the “fiscal cliff” (automatic tax increases and spending cuts) and what our leaders do — or fail to do —will have the focus of the nation and the world. 
    For months, we have been looking at various scenarios for passing a five-year farm bill.  There are multiple ways to accomplish it, but until House leadership decides to move forward on the “fiscal cliff” issue, no probability can be assigned to getting it done this year, and it would then be extended and dealt with next year.

Huge Sugarbeet Crop —
    Despite the drought, we are looking at a great crop this year.  As we wrap up, harvest estimates are that we will see a 34-million ton beet crop. This, along with a good cane crop and larger production, enters a North American market that is oversupplied, and we will be carrying the highest level of stocks since 1999/ 2000.  World sugar production is up, stocks are building, and prices are falling dramatically. 
    With the North American market awash in sugar under the current policy, the arguments by sugar users against our policy have collapsed.  As we know, it’s easy to add sugar to a tight market, but it takes a long time to bring an oversupplied market back into balance.

2013 ASGA Annual Meeting —
    Grower leaders from across the country will gather to get the latest information on what the election means for the future of U.S. agriculture and sugar policy.  The legislative agenda, politics and priorities in the 113th Congress; the operation of sugar policy under the 2008 farm bill and the provisions of the 2012 farm bill; biotechnology; an update on the U.S.-Mexico sugar market, and other topics will take center stage at the annual meeting in San Diego on February 3-5.  It is a meeting that no grower or industry supplier should miss.  You can see the program, register for the meeting and make hotel reservations online at www.americansugarbeet.org. If you need other information, call the ASGA office at (202) 833-2398.     
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<![CDATA[Dateline Washington: July/August 2012]]>Mon, 06 Aug 2012 21:21:15 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2012/08/dateline-washington-julyaugust-2012.htmlFarm Bill
    Senate — On June 20, the Senate concluded its consideration of its version of the 2012 farm bill. It considered 73 amendments to the bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee. Each amendment had a total of two minutes of debate – one minute in favor of the amendment and one minute against. 
    An unprecedented three amendments against U.S. sugar policy were raised by opponents.  The first amendment considered on the farm bill was to completely eliminate U.S. sugar policy.  The amendment was offered by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and co-sponsored by Senators Ron Kirk (R-Illinois) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey).  It failed on a vote of 46-50. 
    The second amendment, which sought to eliminate all the changes and improvements to the sugar policy made in the 2008 farm bill, was offered by Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) and co-sponsored by Senators Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Dan Coats (R-Indiana), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Ron Kirk (R-Illinois) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).  This amendment would have rolled the sugar loan rate back 27 years (1985), eliminated the feedstock flexibility program (surplus sugar to ethanol), eliminated the April 1 date that restricts adding sugar to the market until the U.S. crop is mostly processed and the harvest in Mexico is well along, and giving U.S. growers first right to 85% of the U.S. market.  The amendment also mandated an ending stocks-to-use number (15.5%) that would have kept our market in an oversupplied situation, creating depressed prices and threats of forfeitures.  It also would have allowed countries that could not fill their tariff rate quota amount to sell their excess to the U.S. market to another foreign supplier.  This amendment lost 46-53.        
    The third amendment, offered by Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), rolled the April 1 date back to February 1, in which the USDA could announce greater imports to the market. By moving the day back earlier in the year, it adds more risk to making accurate import decisions. The amendment passed by a voice vote in the Senate.
    The Senate farm bill must now wait for the House to take action on its own bill, which is completely separate from the Senate bill.
    House — On July 11, the House Agriculture Committee completed its crafting of the farm bill in a 15-hour marathon session during which 103 amendments were considered.  An amendment by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) was the same as the amendment outlined above by Sen. Toomey, making drastic changes to the sugar policy.  The amendment failed 36-10.
    A second amendment regarding an attempt to effectively modify the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was ruled out of order and withdrawn because it was outside the jurisdiction of the ag committee.  So the sugar provisions in the House bill are the same as those in the current bill.
    Many Thanks to your grower leaders who were in Washington for our summer board meeting and the many visits they made on Capitol Hill asking members to vote against any amendments against the sugar policy.  Their visits truly make a difference.
    The big question now is when and how the House will proceed with consideration of the farm bill.  With the Senate’s completion of the bill and the current bill expiring September 30, there is great pressure for the House to take up the bill before Congress recesses starting August 4 and continuing to September 10.   As of this mid-July writing, there is no answer to that question.
    Whenever the House completes action, the House and Senate farm bills will have to be reconciled so that one bill is created from the two separate bills.  The leadership of the two committees will manage that process to produce a “conference report.”  The conference report cannot be amended in either body and is sent back to both the House and Senate for a very brief debate and final vote.  If approved by both chambers, the bill is then sent to the President for his signature and to become law.
    In a separate action, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania) offered an amendment in the House Appropriations Committee to the FY 2013 agricultural appropriations bill.  It was a “means test” restricting sugar processors from taking out CCC loans.  The amendment failed in committee by a vote of 15-30.

Biotech
    The 800-plus-page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was published on June 8, and the public review and commenting ended July 9. 
    On July 20, USDA published the Record of Decision (ROD) in the Federal Register, which once again deregulated Roundup Ready® Sugarbeets (RRSB).  While growers no longer have to abide by the USDA compliance agreements under the partial deregulation, they must retain their records and comply with the provisions of the technical use agreement with the tech provider.  Specific instructions will be communicated to growers by their processor. 
    Beet growers have always been good stewards of the technology and will continue to be in the years ahead.
    Litigation — The two RRSB cases currently pending in U.S. District Court will now have to be reviewed by the court in the context of the deregulation of RRSB.

Supply & Demand
    Carryover stocks ending September 30 are expected to be at 15.4% of usage, which is the highest level of stocks in many years.  With a large beet crop expected this year, there will be plenty of sugar available for customers without increasing imports above our minimum obligations under our various free trade agreements.

Annual Meeting
    The 2013 ASGA Annual Meeting will be held on February 3-5 in San Diego, Calif., at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.  The program will include various speakers and events pertaining to key industry issues and current sugar policy.
    Meeting registration will be available online at www.americansugarbeet.org beginning as of November 1.  Visit the ASGA website for more information.

ASGA Intern
    Many thanks to Leah Kramer from Bird Island, Minn., for a great experience this year.  Leah met many members of Congress and worked on several projects that were helpful for our grower leaders’ work on the farm bill.  We appreciate her dedicated efforts and support over the past two months.            
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<![CDATA[Dateline: Washington   April/May 2012]]>Thu, 03 May 2012 19:12:01 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/6/post/2012/05/dateline-washington-aprilmay-2012.htmlAdditional Imports
    On April 10, USDA issued its most important supply and demand estimate of the year.  Once this estimate is finalized, USDA typically uses this information to make a decision on any additional imports from our foreign suppliers. 
    USDA has a window from April 1 (the earliest date, barring an emergency) until approximately July 15 to announce additional imports for the market, with the likelihood that they will be delivered before the end of the fiscal year ending September 30.  This does not prohibit USDA from making late import announcements and extending the entry period into the following fiscal year.
    April estimates are that stocks will drop to a level of 6.8%, due to imports from Mexico dropping by 385,000 tons from the previous month’s estimates.  Speculating  how much sugar will come from Mexico is a very difficult process, and numbers can fluctuate significantly from month to month. 
    Prior to the April estimates, industrial sugar users asked the secretary to import volumes in the 700,000- to 900,000-ton range, which would clearly oversupply the market and collapse prices.  Most of the domestic industry has advised the Secretary to be cautious in any consideration of additional imports.  We have an earlier- than-usual spring this year.  If we avoid late-spring frosts and have a good growing season, we could see earlier harvests and production for the 2012 crop that would be sold in the current fiscal year ending September 30.
    This administration has done an admirable job in managing additional imports while constantly facing the uncertainty of unrestricted imports from Mexico and operating the policy at no cost to taxpayers.

Biotech
    The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has scheduled oral arguments on June 15, 2012, on the summary judgment motions in the Grant litigation.  The summary judgment motions that will be heard by the court include motions by the sugarbeet industry and USDA that ask the court to conclude that the partial deregulation of Roundup Ready® Sugarbeets was proper, and a motion by the Center for Food Safety asking the court to find that even partial deregulation with conditions required a full Environmental Impact Statement.  It is unclear how soon after the argument the court will rule on the parties’ motions.  We are also waiting to see a final Environmental Impact Statement, which we believe will be ready this summer.

Crop Insurance
    For years we have tried to address the problematic  lack of adequate compensation for costs to replant our crop.  The system that is currently in place has two key factors for determining coverage:  price election (which changes each year based on the presumed value of the crop before it is planted) and a multiplier of the price election.  When market prices are stronger, this formula is helpful to cover replant costs. But when market prices drop, so does the replant coverage when using the current system.
    Grower leaders have asked for — and we have now achieved — a fixed number for replant coverage.  Having a fixed number decouples it from market price swings, so when market prices drop and your costs don’t, you have a better risk management tool. 
    In April, RMA published a fixed number for replants for the 2013 crop at $80 per acre in California (closing date is April 30); and we expect that this will be applicable to all other growing areas.  This number can be changed as future costs continue to increase.  The coverage only applies to seed and fuel, which is why it does not fully reflect your actual cost of replanting the crop.

2012 Farm Bill
    A clear path for completing a farm bill in 2012 remains shrouded in a cloud of uncertainty.  The Senate Agriculture Committee is committed to reporting out a bill in April for consideration on the Senate floor as early as May.  There is no assurance as to when it will come up for debate, but the Senate will need to act promptly in order to force the House to move on a farm bill.  Typically, the House forces members to take tough votes on bills, only to have the bills die in the Senate — which creates political risk for House members.  So, in an election year, the House will wait for the Senate to act before taking a bill to the House floor.
    There also are two fundamental problems that have to be dealt with.         
    First, the Senate is writing a farm bill with cuts of $23 billion over 10 years from the commodity-related provisions.  Under the House budget (which is not law because the Senate will not agree to it), the House version is supposed to cut about $33 billion out of the commodity provisions of the farm bill.  So the two bodies would have to somehow reconcile a $10 billion difference between their bills, which is no simple task. 
    Second, time is slipping away. When the House returns on May 7, there will be only  51 legislative days before the election, which is not a lot of time to pass a bill as major as the farm bill.  Four anti-sugar policy bills (two in the House and two in the Senate) remain active, but with relatively few co-sponsors — most of whom are the usual fervent opponents.  The industry is well-prepared to oppose such proposals when they are brought to the floor as amendments to the farm bill.                
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