<![CDATA[The Sugarbeet Grower Magazine - Dateline Washington]]>Wed, 06 Jan 2016 07:53:25 -0800EditMySite<![CDATA[November/December 2015]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 18:26:19 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/novemberdecember-2015
As 2015 comes to a close, we can look back to many successes by our industry this year. In addition to producing a tremendous crop, we have succeeded in tackling big issues that have threatened our industry.
After almost two years of work by beet and cane growers and processors and a tremendous legal team, the Mexico trade problem is now addressed, with provisions that will limit Mexican sugar imports at minimum prices and will not threaten forfeitures. With USDA back in control over imports to balance market demand, U.S. sugar policy is back to a “no cost” program that will stabilize the market for producers for at least the next five years. Much work still needs to be done to protect the agreement from legal challenges and assure that the agreement is well monitored so that industry participants in the U.S. and Mexico are in compliance.
Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
The second success is the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that provided access of sugar and sugar-containing products from 11 other countries in a manner that will not disrupt our market, harm our producers or undermine our sugar policy. Negotiators for the Obama Administration were excellent to work with, and they stood by their commitments to negotiate an agreement with results that our industry could live with.This is the largest and most complex free trade negotiation the U.S. has ever negotiated, so it takes time for all sectors of our economy to digest the details. As with any trade agreement, the forces for and against it will be loud and active. A date for congressional consideration has not yet been scheduled for 2016.
A third success was fighting off a $3 billion attack on crop insurance contained in the two-year budget deal that was forged by congressional leaders and the White House. The cut came as a last minute and dead-of-night surprise to everyone, including the House and Senate Agriculture committees and the crop insurance industry. The broad spectrum of agriculture interests immediately closed ranks and were outraged that more harm would come to a critically important risk management tool for farmers, given all of the cuts that had already been made to agriculture during the farm bill fight. House and Senate leaders and the White House got the message loud and clear and agreed to not only correct the problem, but find the $3 billion in spending cuts outside of any programs “under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committee.”
This is very important, because more attacks will come against farm policy by the “Anti-Farmer Coalition,” which includes conservative think tanks on the right, the Environmental Working Group on the left, and some large agribusinesses, sugar users and the mainstream media. We are not only defending the 2014 farm bill; we are already preparing for the 2018 farm bill. We are likely to see attacks on sugar policy in the appropriations process in 2016, so we must stand together to oppose any reopening of the farm bill.
A fourth success is on the biotechnology front. KWS and Monsanto announced that they are moving forward with a triple-stack herbicide trait for sugarbeets. While it will take almost a decade to get seed into growers’ hands, the first step is to get a commitment to move the technology forward. Grower frustration over much of the anti-biotech misinformation that activists have disbursed over the Internet for years has motivated a number of our women farmers, and they are committed to pushing back with the truth about the technology. You will see more activity by women who will take on the activists and educate consumers.
Finally, efforts to get a federal labeling standard for foods containing genetically engineered crops or ingredients have been very controversial, complicated and emotional.
The issue is driven by activists who have pressed for state labeling initiatives and mandatory labeling. We were successful in getting a federal pre-emption bill passed this summer in the House, and continue to work on a Senate bill that would also pre-empt the states from creating a patchwork of different labeling requirements. It is a very high priority for us, and we are working with commodity groups and food manufacturers to find a solution to the problem.
The 2016 election season is already in full swing. Presidential debates are gaining a good deal of media attention, and predicting the final nominees for either party is filled with uncertainty. There are also a number of Senate and House races that we are very focused on.
Support of your local Political Action Committee is critically important as we move into the election year. Your contributions allow us to spend time educating members of Congress and their key staff about U.S. sugar policy. There will also be numerous congressional candidates who will want to meet with us and learn more about our industry. If you have not participated in your PAC in the past, you need to start right now. If you have participated, then thoughtfully consider doing more. The challenges before our industry and agriculture as a whole are daunting in the years ahead.
Success is not a result of random acts of kindness by policy makers. It is achieved by targeted and methodical education activities to counter misinformation spouted by clamoring industrial sugar users. The threats are real and the challenges are serious. Your voice needs to continue to be strong . . . our industry leadership respected . . . and new relationships forged with policy makers across our nation.
Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[July / August 2015]]>Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:44:58 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/july-31st-2015

Agriculture Appropriations

Attacks on U.S. sugar policy were threatened during consideration of the FY 2016 agricultural appropriations bills in the House and Senate. In the House Ag Approps Subcommittee, Cong. Charles Dent (R-Pennsylvania/Hershey) stated that he would not introduce a sugar reform amendment at that time, but he sent a clear message that he was likely to do so if and when the bill came to the floor. Any amendment in the subcommittee or committee would have lost, and that would not help him with a floor effort. With the appropriations process now in disarray, it is unlikely that any further appropriations bills will be voted on separately, but we always have to be ready for a vote.

The Senate Appropriations Committee was told by Senators Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Kirk (R-Illinois) that they had an amendment that would prohibit funds to make nonrecourse CCC loans available loans to any sugar company/cooperative that had gross revenues from sugar of $300 million or more in the previous fiscal year — which would make most sugar companies ineligible and force them out of the sugar program. Again, the amendment was withdrawn because a losing vote in committee would work against them on the floor. As in the House, a stand-alone agriculture appropriations bill is unlikely.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.


While the antidumping and countervailing duty investigations are ongoing and final determination expected in early November, the Department of Commerce (DOC) is currently executing the suspension agreements reached between the U.S. and Mexican governments on December 19, 2014. Under that agreement, the DOC uses the World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) to make its first estimate of U.S. import needs in July for FY 2016, which begins October 1, 2015, and ends September 30, 2016.

On July 15, the DOC announced that U.S. residual needs above domestic production and required imports from all other trade agreements left a shortfall of 1,548,350 short tons raw value (STRV). Production estimates will change over time as the crop continues to grow, as weather events occur (hurricanes, frost, flood, drought, etc.) and as beet storage and processing conditions play out. Mexico is therefore guaranteed only 70% of the shortfall this early in the year (1,083,845 STRV)— an amount that cannot be reduced going forward. Buyers in the U.S. and sellers in Mexico can begin to make commercial decisions based on this volume. This number can increase October 1 if September estimates the need for more imports, but still not more than 70% of residual needs.

No more than 30% of the needs projected in July can be shipped to the U.S.
between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, and no more than 55% can be imported before March 31.

On January 1, the percentage of needs increases to 80% of residual needs based on December estimates. Finally, on April 1, 2016, the final export amount for Mexico will be determined from the March WASDE estimates. As you can see, there are small adjustments to add sugar to the market over time once our domestic production is no longer projected, and when the sugar has been processed and is sitting in our warehouses.

What is also important in the suspension agreement is that no more than 30% of the needs projected in July can be shipped to the U.S. between October 1 and December 31, and no more than 55% can be imported before March 31. This is a critical time for both beet and cane processing, and this provision allows our industry to move product to market and not be forced to store it while large amounts of Mexican sugar enter our market.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Negotiations

With the passage of Trade Promotion Authority in June, negotiations to conclude the 12-country trade agreement are now racing toward a conclusion. Negotiators and trade ministers met in Maui, Hawaii, at the end of July and hope to conclude the negotiations or have them at a point where they could be completed at a subsequent ministers meeting shortly thereafter. If the agreement is to be approved by Congress in 2015, it needs to be concluded very soon to provide the required time for congressional re-view. We are monitoring the negotiations very closely and continue to be reassured by the Trade Representative that no agreement will be made that undermines our domestic sugar policy.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Negotiations (U.S. & EU)

The 10th round of negotiations was held in Brussels July 13-17. It is the negotiators’ intent to complete the negotiations and get agreement approval by the end of 2016 before President Obama leaves office. We are also monitoring these negotiations closely, but there are several months of negotiations left.

GMO Labeling Bill H.R. 1599

Pompeo (R-Kansas) Butterfield (D-North Carolina) The House was scheduled to vote on July 23 on the passage of the GMO labeling bill that would address critically important labeling issues. The key elements are:

1) Creates a uniform national system for labeling of genetically engineered foods. It would pre-empt state labeling laws either passed in the state legislature or by ballot initiative to require labeling. Note: the pre-emption does not apply to local governments wishing to restrict production of GE crops.

2) Requires developers of genetically engineered plants to consult with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before they are introduced into commerce. (This has been done voluntarily on all GE crops in commerce.)

3) Upholds FDA’s authority to specify special labeling if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety.

4) Creates a new legal framework governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence of, or use of, GE food or food ingredients.

5) Allows those who wish to label their products as GMO-free to do so through a USDA-accredited certification process.

6) Requires FDA to establish standards for the use of the term “natural” on food labels.

ASGA Internship

Many thanks to Megan Stevens (Southern Minnesota) for being our intern this summer. She did a tremendous job on various research projects that will benefit all domestic sugar producers, and specifically beet growers. Megan enjoyed a wide variety of experiences that will be helpful as she pursues a career in agriculture, and she was a real asset in our work on biotech issues.

We encourage your talented sons and daughters to apply for the 2016 internship next year. It truly is a tremendous opportunity, and applications are available on our website.

2016 Annual Meeting

The 2016 annual meeting of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association is scheduled for February 7-9 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Meeting details will be posted at www.americansugarbeet. org. Registration opens as of November 1.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[April / May 2015]]>Mon, 27 Apr 2015 19:45:44 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/a-review-of-asgas-very-full-plate

A Review of ASGA's Very Full Plate

Each spring unleashes a tremendous amount of activity requiring incredible multi-tasking skills on the farm, in the halls of Congress and throughout the administration of government policies. Here is a peek at all of the issues in which we currently are engaged: Antidumping and Countervailing

Trade Cases against Mexico —The suspension agreements that replace AD/CVD duties need to be supported, monitored and enforced. With the agreements in place, there is no further need to continue the investigation. The Department of Commerce will rule very soon whether the investigations should continue.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations (TPP): If Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is voted on in Congress by early May, we could very well see the negotiations being completed or near completion by late May, with a vote on the agreement itself this fall. Clearly, our industry is very sensitive to additional sugar imports into an already oversupplied market, and we have conveyed that to the key negotiators.

African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA):
Making sure that we do not provide any further additional sugar or sugar-containing product access in the renewal of the AGOA this year.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): A free trade agreement with Europe that could have an impact on sugar trade between the two economic giants in the world. Negotiations are going on now, but no likely completion of a deal at least until 2016.

World Trade Organization: While negotiations continue, many major sugar-producing countries are expanding their subsidies to their sugar industries. The WTO moves at the pace of a speeding glacier.

Legislation: (1) Educate scores of new staff and new members of Congress on the importance and benefits of a strong domestic sugar industry. (2) Defend against attacks on sugar policy and crop insurance in both the budget and appropriations process throughout the year. (3) Push to get a federal standard for labeling consumer products whose ingredients have been produced from biotech plants. This is a huge issue for sugar and all biotech crops. (4) Waters of the U.S.: legislatively stop the overreach by EPA to regulate every drop of water on your farm. (5) Taxes: working within the agriculture coalition to protect provisions for accelerated depreciation on equipment purchases and to maximize the exemption of inheritance taxes so that farms may be passed to the next generation. We are also looking at other opportunities to make crop insurance more effective than it is today.

Administration: (1) Make sure the sugar policy is administered at no-cost to taxpayers. (2) Make sure the AD/CVD suspension agreements are monitored and enforced. (3) Monitor the crop insurance work to complete Trend Adjusted APH and supplemental coverage for the 2016 crop.

Biotechnology: (1) Get the federal labeling bill passed. (2) Draft and submit a report to the National Academy of Sciences on the benefits of biotechnology to the beet sugar industry. (3) Recruit, educate and train spokeswomen for biotech in all beet growing areas. (4) Design a three year herbicide resistance pilot program for multiple growing areas. (5) 10 THE SUGARBEET GROWER April/May 2015 Prepare and deliver presentations to the international sugar community, highlighting the key benefits of the technology.

Public Relations: Make sure all of the areas noted above are backed by a thoughtful and targeted public relations program.

Political Action: We are constantly working to meet, educate and thank members of Congress for all their support for a strong domestic sugar industry and policy. Multiple requests are made each day. As always, your support of your local PAC is critically important to make a real impact.

New Leaders: With the passing of the 2014 farm bill, several grower groups use this time as a period to transition new grower-leaders onto the ASGA Board of Directors. A good deal of education and training takes place to make sure all directors have a full understanding of a variety of complex issues in order to make good decisions for their cooperative and industry and to help educate the growers they represent.

2015 ASGA Internship: Megan Stevens, daughter of Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative growers Marc and Jan Stevens of Montevideo, Minn., will be the 2015 ASGA intern. Megan is currently attending the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, and the College of Science and Engineering. As a junior, she is pursing a Bachelor of Arts degree in applied economics and Bachelor of Science in chemistry.

Our industry is blessed to have such smart and talented young adults to further their educational and training experiences by working with us each summer and providing valuable input to defend and promote many issues that impact our industry. Megan joined her dad as part of the lobbying team during this year’s fly-in and has first-hand experience of making congressional visits to educate members and staff.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

<![CDATA[March 2015]]>Wed, 18 Mar 2015 19:04:05 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/march-2015Picture
Sugarbeet and sugarcane growers made their annual visits to Capitol Hill in late February and early March to educate and discuss with congressional members and staff key issues of interest for our industry.

First, the farm bill has been written. . . farmers have made business decisions based on the contents of the bill. . . and now it must be defended. Attacks on farm policy against sugar policy, crop insurance and other important tools used by farmers are likely to come through the appropriations process that will play out in the coming months. Our request of everyone we visited was to vote against any attack on any of the farm policies. We are reminding offices that with a resolution of the Mexican trade problem, our policy is predicted to cost “$0” for the next 10 years by USDA. While the sugar users argued that they were paying substantially higher prices for sugar during the farm bill consideration, prices were driven by global shortages and not by the U.S. sugar policy.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

Second, Mexico unfairly dumped sugar into our market, harming taxpayers and sugar producers. It was a case that outraged our industry as it caused a $259 million blemish on a no-cost program and harmed growers to the tune of about $1 billion in lost revenue. As an industry, we would not tolerate it and thus took action to solve the problem through the use of antidumping and countervailing trade remedies — and we believe we have successfully accomplished that objective.

Third, Mexican subsidies and dumping are not an anomaly in the world market, but rather the norm. We have outlined the vast array of sugar subsidies around the world and note that if all subsidies were removed, inefficient producers would go out of business, world prices would strengthen significantly, and our efficient American farmers would compete without a sugar policy.

Fourth, we need a national uniformity labeling bill to address foods whose ingredients derived from biotechnology are not required to be labeled unless there is a health or safety issue. Specifically for sugar, there is no difference between sugar grown from biotech, conventional or organic production. With the protein and DNA removed during refining, it is no different than sugar produced from nonbiotech beet and cane.

A huge “Thank You” to all of the grower-leaders who walked miles of hallways to deliver your message to all the new staff and members of Congress. Also, a big “Thank You” for your support of your political action committees that allowed our growers to, in turn, show our support for those who support a strong domestic sugar industry.

At this year’s USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in February, a representative of the National Confectioners Association presented their sweetener needs and a perspective of U.S. sugar policy. Here are their top priorities:

  1. Consistent top-quality [sugar] is a must.
  2. Reliable, timely supply essential (just-in-time delivery).
  3. Larger users tend to buy for- 12 THE SUGARBEET GROWER March 2015 ward (provides security and predictability in pricing).
  4. Often use multiple suppliers (competitors provide the best quality, service and price).
  5. Need supply of both cane and beet sugar.
  6. Geographic diversity (spread out the risk of market disruption and provide proximity to user manufacturing facilities).
  7. Need both domestic and imported refined sugar supply.
  8. Year-round supply.

What is interesting is that there’s a desire to have all of these benefits — but, they want sugar prices at such low levels that it would drive producers out of business and take away the things they desperately need. It makes no sense at all.

Sugar users also argue against any type of limitations on imports from Mexico even when the Mexicans are dumping unfairly into our market. Essentially, they are saying that if countries want to cheat in a trade agreement, we should simply ignore that if it gives us products at lower prices. I challenged the speaker and asked, “How does our nation move forward with negotiating future trade agreements that sugar users want if we don’t address cheating and enforce the agreements we already have?”

That is precisely why there is a lack of support for trade agreements that impact sensitive industries like sugar and can harm hard-working, taxpaying American citizens. Agreements correctly negotiated and effectively enforced give both confidence and support for trade negotiations.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[February 2015]]>Fri, 13 Mar 2015 21:16:43 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/february-2015Picture
Grower leaders have just met in Long Beach, Calif., for the 2015 ASGA Annual Meeting to dig deep into several key issues facing our industry in 2015 and beyond.

The ASGA Board of Directors spent one very long and intense day studying the North American sugar and sweetener market from a variety of perspectives. A better understanding of the beet industry’s customers and competitors in the U.S. and Mexico will be very beneficial in every cooperative board room. It will also help clarify key issues that drive and impact domestic sugar policy and negotiations of pending trade agreements. This was a unique educational opportunity that keeps the industry leaders thinking ahead of the curve.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

Our general sessions focused on six key areas: Mexico, international trade, domestic sugar policy, operating in a changed political landscape, the biotech labeling debate, and sugar image/consumption and herbicide resistance.

The Mexican trade issue will be with us for a long time and will require a great deal of attention and work. The suspension agreements to the antidumping and countervailing cases negotiated by the U.S. and Mexican governments in 2014 are now being formally reviewed by the U.S. International Trade Commission at the request of two independent U.S. cane sugar refiners (Imperial Sugar in Savannah, Ga., and Am- Cane in Taylor, Mich.). The issue is whether the suspension agreements “completely eliminate” the injurious effect of Mexico’s subsidies and dumping. Stay tuned.

The Mexican trade issue
will be with us for a long
time and will require a great
deal of attention and work.

Industry experts walked the meeting attendees through these issues and examined how difficult it is to merge two very different industries and sugar policies in the same common market.

As we have learned with NAFTA, if you don’t get the right agreement from the beginning, it can have a devastating impact on your market and years of political and legal work to address the problem. So with the Trans-Pacific Partnership expected to be concluded in 2015, early negotiations of a free trade agreement with Europe, and on a path to normalization with Cuba in the future, we looked at all of those issues and how they impact U.S. sugar producers.

We also heard from the key person at USDA who monitors and makes recommendations on the actions USDA should take in managing the U.S. sugar program. As you know, those decisions directly impact your beet payment.

With the 2014 elections behind us and the political jockeying for the 2016 presidential election underway, we now operate in a very different political environment. What does that mean for agriculture policy now, and how do we begin to position for the next farm bill? Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest and ag journalist Jim Wiesemeyer helped meeting attendees understand the many forces in play and the ramifications for agriculture in the years ahead.

We also focused a great deal on the key issues in biotechnology for our industry. The labeling debate is big, and it’s loud. It will get bigger and louder in 2015 as competing labeling bills will be in front of the Congress. We heard from expert Karil Kochenderfer on how we talk about our technology. Growers also heard from Laura Rutherford, a ninth-generation farmer and North Dakota beet grower, on how farm women can talk about the technology.

Herbicide resistance is a key challenge for American agriculture. As an industry, we must be proactive and innovative to fend off the problem. It requires education, commitment and changes in the way you farm. Our industry has been working with the top weed scientists in the nation to determine the best way to educate and implement Best Management Practices. It is a very complicated issue, and beet growers may have a unique opportunity be leaders in this area. You will hear much more about this in the months ahead. 

Finally, Andy Briscoe from The Sugar Association brought us up to date on the industry’s response to the many attacks on sugar in the diet. What are the real facts?

As a reminder, applications for the 2015 Cleavinger Internship at ASGA are due by the end of March. This is a wonderful and life-changing experience for our young leaders of tomorrow. Jake Chisholm, a grower for American Crystal and student at North Dakota State University, was the 2014 ASGA Intern, and he spoke to the meeting audience about his experiences in D.C.

Also, I have on my desk a copy of a doctoral thesis titled, “Analysis of the United States’ Sugar Industry,” written by Dr. Karen Lewis, who is now an esteemed assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in agricultural economics. She was the ASGA intern from Michigan in 2007, and she pursued this career path as a result of that experience.
Editor’s Note: Look for complete coverage of the 2015 ASGA Annual Meeting in The Sugarbeet Grower’s March issue.

The labeling debate will get bigger and 
louder in 2015 as competing labeling 
bills will be in front of the Congress.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[January 2015]]>Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:20:51 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/january-2015Dateline Washington, Sugarbeet Growers Magazine
On December 19, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it had finalized agreements with the Government of Mexico and Mexican sugar exporters to suspend antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations on imports of sugar. The agreements immediately suspend both the AD and CVD investigations, allow Mexican sugar to enter the U.S. market free of antidumping or countervailing duties, and create mechanisms to ensure that imports of Mexican sugar do not injure the U.S. sugar industry while enabling U.S. sugar consumption needs to be met.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

The finalized agreements incorporate several changes from the draft suspension agreements that Commerce initialed on October 27. The changes, which include a revised definition of refined sugar and adjustments to the reference price, reflect comments that were submitted by interested parties in response to the Department’s request for public comment on the draft agreements.

“I am pleased that we were able to resolve this matter,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance, Paul Piquado, who signed the suspension agreements on behalf of the United States. “These agreements, which work in concert with the U.S. sugar program, contain important mechanisms that both address the market-distorting effects of unfairly traded sugar and help promote stability in this important market.”

The CVD agreement contains provisions to ensure that there is not an oversupply of Mexican sugar that could cause price declines that threaten the U.S. industry and farmers. These agreements do not change the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s sugar program or U.S. obligations under WTO regarding sugar quotas.

Key Terms of Agreements
Countervailing Duty Agreement (CVD) --

• The CVD agreement contains provisions to prevent an oversupply 10 THE SUGARBEET GROWER January 2015 of sugar in the U.S. market. Specifically, Commerce will calculate an export limit for Mexico based on information it obtains from the U.S.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the U.S. needs for sugar in a given year. The CVD agreement will also prevent imports from being concentrated during certain times of the year, and will limit the amount of refined sugar that may enter the U.S. market from Mexico.

• Mexico’s export limit is set at 100% of U.S. needs after accounting for U.S. production and imports from tariff rate quota countries. (U.S. needs are calculated based on USDA data.)

• For purposes of the agreement, “refined sugar” is defined as sugar with a polarity of 99.5% or greater. “Other sugar” is sugar that does not meet the definition of refined sugar. The agreement caps exports of refined sugar at 53% of total exports from Mexico.

• The Government of Mexico will allocate the amount of sugar that each Mexican sugar producer/exporter can export to the United States. As part of this process, the Government of Mexico has agreed to establish an export licensing mechanism. Sugar from Mexico will not be able to enter the U.S. if not accompanied by an export license.

• The signatories of the CVD agreement are Commerce and the Government of Mexico.

Anitidumping Agreement (AD) — 
• The AD agreement establishes reference prices, or minimum prices, to guard against undercutting or suppression of U.S. prices. These minimum prices are $0.26/pound by dry weight commercial value for refined sugar and $0.2225/pound by dry weight commercial value for all other sugar. (Prices are FOB mill, so transportation costs of 5-to-7+ cents per pound must be added to the refined price; so, the minimum refined market price is in the $.31 - $.33 range). “Refined sugar” is defined as sugar with at least 99.5% polarity or above. “Other sugar” is sugar that does not meet the definition of refined sugar.

• The signatories of the AD agreement are Commerce and the Mexican sugar producers and exporters that account for substantially all of the subject merchandise imported into the United States

Monitoring and Enforcement

• Commerce and the relevant Mexican government agencies have agreed to establish information exchanges and consultative processes in relation to the operation and enforcement of the agreements.

Next Steps
• Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to terminate the suspension of liquidation and refund any cash deposits collected as a result of the preliminary AD and CVD investigation determinations consistent with the relevant provisions of U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty law.

There are still a number of required legal steps before this agreement will have certainty over the next five years. Your industry leaders are monitoring it very closely and will act to defend these agreements in light of any opposition to them.

Cuba Sugar Production, Sugarbeet Grower MagazineData Source: USDA PSD Nov. 2014
— Cuba 
President Obama’s announcement of reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba has created yet another interesting geopolitical and economic situation. While pages could be written about this subject, here is the bottom line from a sugar perspective:

First, nothing of significance will change anytime soon. Only Congress can lift the embargo, and that will not happen for some time. A highly charged debate on both sides of the issue is expected, and it will slow whatever transition steps that lie ahead.

Second, the Cuban sugar industry has collapsed from its greatest days when the former Soviet Union bartered Soviet oil for Cuban sugar, with a raw price equivalent of about 40 cents per pound. When the Soviets walked away, the industry began a substantial collapse. (See chart at right.)

The Cuban sugar industry knows it cannot compete with Brazil in the world sugar market, so significant consolidation and lack of investment in maintaining the sugar mills do not paint a rosy picture for the future of the industry. We will discuss this in the weeks and months ahead as the national debate plays out.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

<![CDATA[Dec. 26th, 2014]]>Fri, 26 Dec 2014 17:10:24 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/dec-26th-2014Picture
2014 Elections  -  Voter frustration with Washington’s lack of political leadership, civility and productivity was evident in the November 4 mid-term elections. What does the shift to a Republican majority in both Houses mean for the next two years? First, Republicans need to show they can pass important legislation.

This means each of the appropriations bills must be considered and completed individually — a practice that has not happened in many years. This process will, unfortunately, provide opportunities to attack farm bill provisions during consideration of the Agricultural Appropriations bill, so we will need to work very hard to protect the sugar provisions, crop insurance and other important elements in the farm bill.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

Agriculture groups will need to close ranks and work together. With 12 new senators and 57 new House members (as of November 12), a tremendous education process about the sugar industry and policy needs to take place early next year. Grower leaders will be headed to Washington to do that, and your support of them and your political action committee will be crucial in carrying out this essential work.

Second, Republicans need to be very cautious as to the issues they will pursue and the approach they will take. They will have to thread the political needle very carefully. While they have a majority in both houses, they do not have enough votes to override presidential vetoes. They need to take positions that appeal to minority voters, because those voters will be needed to win the White House in 2016.

Some bills are expected to be passed with the full expectation of a presidential veto in order to use it as a campaign issue against the Democrats’ “brand” going into the elections. Other legislative priorities will include trade, immigration, tax reform and transportation infrastructure.

In 2016, the Republicans will have to defend 24 seats in the Senate, compared to only 10 Democrat seats. The majority of those seats are in states that voted quite convincingly for President Obama. Unlike the House of Representatives, where gerrymandered districts will give many congressional members a fairly high level of political security for the next 10 years, senators do not have that kind of protection. They do not want to jeopardize the loss of control over not only the legislative agenda, but also its role to confirm top political appointees and judges. Voters typically like the checks and balances in the branches of government, so what happens on Capitol Hill can help or hurt the Republican candidate for President — whomever the nominee is.

Third, the race is on for the White House. It is the next big political event upon which voters will focus. Republicans desperately want the White House so they can address regulatory issues and replace aging judges on the Supreme Court. Given the razor-thin vote that President Obama received in the last presidential election, Democrats cannot afford a brutal primary fight, so they must rally behind a single candidate early on. With Hillary Clinton as the odds-on favorite, everyone awaits her formal decision to run.

Republicans also understand that a repeat of the brutal 2012 debate among multiple presidential candidates in a long primary process is detrimental to success. So the challenge will be to solidify around a single candidate early in the process who has a more moderate appeal. We shall see how that plays out.

With 12 new senators and 57 new House members (as of November 12), 
a tremendous education process about the sugar industry 
and policy needs to take place early next year.

Mexico - Preliminary countervailing and antidumping duties were imposed in August and October, respectively, as a response to unfair trading practices by the Mexican sugar industry. At the time the antidumping duties were announced, the U.S. and Mexican governments also announced proposed suspension agreements negotiated between them that would provide limits on how much sugar could be exported by Mexico to the U.S. and at a price floor that would address the threat of dumping.

Such agreements are complicated, with substantial legal work and consultation among industry leaders, so details cannot be discussed publically until the agreements are finalized and signed. We will then have an opportunity to dissect the details and analyze what it all means for our industry.

2015 Annual Meeting - Sugarbeet growers should plan to attend the 2015 ASGA Annual Meeting in Long Beach, Calif., on February 1-3. The program sessions and speakers will examine the core issues that will shape the future of the industry in the coming year: Politics, Policies, Trade, Biotech and Consumption.

Social events will give you the opportunity to visit with other sugarbeet growers and industry suppliers from around the country.

The ASGA website — www.americansugarbeet.org — has the information you need to register for this important meeting, make your hotel reservations, plan your trip, and enjoy the southern California sun, attractions and beaches.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[July 31st, 2014]]>Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:49:47 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/july-31st-2014Picture
Mexico — The U.S. sugar industry is anxiously awaiting an August 25 preliminary determination by the Department of Commerce regarding their investigation of Mexican subsidies to its domestic industry that exports surplus sugar into the U.S. market. If the Mexican subsidies that we allege are confirmed, a countervailing duty that is equivalent to the subsidies could be imposed on sugar imported from Mexico.

This action would then be followed in September/October by a preliminary determination on the dumping of Mexican sugar into the U.S. market. Dumping is when a product is sold in a foreign market below what it is sold for in its domestic market or below its cost of production. If evidence of dumping is determined, a separate set of duties would then be assessed in addition to the countervailing duties.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

The importer of the sugar fromMexico would be responsible for paying the duties in order for the sugar to enter the U.S. Any duty monies collected would be held by the U.S. government until a final determination is announced early next year. If the final determination supports the preliminary determination, then any duty money already collected, or collected in the future, would have to be paid to the U.S. Treasury. No monies collected are given to the sugar industry to compensate it for the injury that has occurred.

The level of duties would determine the impact on sugar imports. If no subsidies or dumping were found, no duties would be assessed. If moderate subsidies and dumping were found, it could have a dampening effect on imports. If significant subsidies and dumping were found, it may make imports prohibitive. If the tariffs made Mexican sugar imports prohibitive, then the U.S. could turn to its other traditional foreign suppliers to supply our domestic needs.

Often times, foreign industries that have been found to use subsidies or dumping practices to gain access to the U.S. market ask their government to find an acceptable negotiated settlement between the two countries to avoid facing new tariffs. Only the two governments can conduct the negotiations that would provide a better solution for the industries in their respective countries. That option is always a possible alternative, and any such attempt should always receive serious consideration. If this were to occur, the two governments would have to find a solution that gains the approval of the petitioners (e.g., the U.S. sugar industry).

This is a very delicate process requiring a tremendous amount of work by industry leaders and legal counsel to pursue these cases and resolve the problem of surplus Mexican imports. Sugar policy opponents have been fighting our efforts every step of the way. Those sugar users have always wanted access to subsidized dumped sugar from foreign suppliers, so their activities come as no surprise. Thankfully, the decisions made by the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission in these cases are based on facts — not backhanded political pressures.

2014 Elections — When the new Congress is seated in January 2015, there will be at least 65 House and Senate members who will have vacated the seats they held in 2013. All of the state primaries have not yet taken place, and we must still weather through the November elections. Given the historically low congressional approval rating and partisan gridlock, anything can happen at the polls this year. There is no greater evidence of that than the surprising defeat of the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his primary election.

The bottom line is that there will be many new faces in the 114th Congress and plenty of work to educate them about U.S. sugar policy. Your THE SUGARBEET GROWER July/August 2014 11 support of your political action committees will be an essential element to that educational process. 

If the Democrats retain control of the Senate, we are likely to see continued battles between the House and Senate over the next two years.The biggest power shift that could occur is if the Republicans take control of the Senate. It is still too early to make any projections with certainty, but the balance in the Senate is likely to be very close, no matter who has the majority. If in fact the Republicans take control of the Senate, a Republican-controlled Congress is likely to bring huge pressures against the President for his remaining two years in office. He will need plenty of ink for his veto pen, and the fights between the two branches of government will have a significant impact on both the tone and substance of the 2016 presidential campaigns over the next two years.

2014 Cleavinger Intern — Our office was fortunate to be joined this summer (June 1-July 26) by this year’s Cleavinger Intern, Jake Chisholm, from Gary, Minn., an ag economics major at North Dakota State University and a grower with American Crystal Sugar. Jake provided weekly reports to the ASGA Board of Directors on his various activities and projects to help our lobbying efforts in support of the sugar provisions in the farm bill. He also focused on a PowerPoint presentation on biotechnology to help educate the public about the importance and safety of the technology.

2015 ASGA Annual Meeting — Save the dates of February 1-3 for the ASGA Annual Meeting at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, Calif. Plan to join industry leaders and suppliers to gain greater insights from top speakers about key issues facing the beet sugar industry. Information and program updates will be available at www.americansugarbeet.org

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.
<![CDATA[Dateline Washington Apr/May 2014]]>Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:26:53 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/dateline-washingtonDateline Washington by Luther Markwart
Mexico — On March 28, U.S. sugar producers and processors (the American Sugar Coalition) filed anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions against subsidized and dumped imported sugar from Mexico due to that harm the imports have caused to U.S. producers and the violation of U.S. trade laws.

• Antidumping law allows the United States to collect anti-dumping duties after administrative determinations by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and Department of Commerce (DOC) that a foreign product is being sold in the U.S. market at less than fair value and that the imports are materially injuring (or threatening to materially injure) the U.S. industry.

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

• Countervailing duty law allows the United States to collect duties to offset any unfair competitive advantage that foreign manufacturers or exporters might enjoy over U.S. producers as a result of subsidies after administrative determinations by the ITC and DOC that a foreign product is being subsidized and that the imports are materially injuring (or threatening to materially injure) the U.S. industry.

The petitions filed by the American Sugar Coalition document the sharp rise in dumped and subsidized sugar from Mexico and how that sugar has caused the collapse of sugar prices and injured all segments of the U.S. sugar industry.
Among the information highlighted in the petitions:

• Mexican sugar has been sold in the U.S. market at dumping margins of more than 40%.

• Mexican sugar producers have benefitted from substantial Mexican federal and state government subsidies.

• The share of the U.S. market captured by Mexican sugar has doubled since 2011, rising from about 9% to over 18% in 2013.

• Acreage devoted to sugar production in Mexico has increased by 66% since NAFTA went into effect, while acreage devoted to sugar production in the United States has declined by 11%.

• U.S. producers have lost a significant volume of sales to dumped and subsidized imports of Mexican sugar.

• Returns to U.S. sugarcane and sugarbeet farmers have declined to unsustainable levels, and American cane sugar refiners and millers and sugarbeet processors have seen their profits evaporate over the period of investigation.

The petitions are neither an attack on — nor an effort to change — NAFTA. Antidumping and countervailing duty cases are explicitly permitted by the NAFTA to ensure fair trade in the U.S. market.

• Mexico, the United States and Canada have prosecuted 114 antidumping and countervailing duty cases against each other since NAFTA went into effect. Mexico has filed 31 petitions against the United States, and the United States has filed 30 petitions against Mexico; the remaining cases involved Canada.

Biotechnology — In response to the anti-biotech activist efforts for mandatory labeling in various states, the agriculture and food industry have joined forces to propose a federal legislative solution to this problem. A bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives in early April that will address several key issues in the labeling debate.

This legislation would create a uniform, national program governing the pre-market review and labeling of genetically engineered foods. First, it would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce.

Second, the legislation would create a new legal framework, subject to FDA oversight, governing the use of label claims regarding either the absence or use of genetically engineered food or food ingredients.

The legislation would also require FDA to develop a federal definition for “natural” claims on product labels. Given this new legal framework, states would be precluded from imposing any requirements that are not identical to these federal requirements.
<![CDATA[Dateline Washington March 2014]]>Sat, 01 Mar 2014 21:45:15 GMThttp://www.sugarpub.com/dateline-washington/dateline-washington-march-2014Dateline Washington by Luther Markwart
Farm Bill — When President Obama signed the 2014 farm bill at Michigan State University on February 7, the ASGA Board of Directors was gathered for our annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. We took a break from board business to witness the signing on C-Span and a big screen TV, and a real sense of excitement, exhilaration, pride, success and relief filled the room from those who had worked tirelessly to get the sugar provisions extended.

The timing of a farm bill being signed during our annual meeting had never happened before and may never happen again. So it was a very special experience for everyone. The spirit of celebration permeated the entire meeting. 

Read our entire issue and back issues. Click here.

In the meeting, your directors spent a good deal of time dissecting the farm bill process — looking at what worked and didn't; what was done well and not so well; what activities we would repeat, and what we would do differently for the next farm bill. Yes, we are already laying the groundwork for the 2018 farm bill. Growers are in Washington the last week of February and first week of March to thank lawmakers for their support, and to try to learn and understand the reasons why others opposed a strong sugar policy. 

With the passage of any farm bill, there are two essential things to focus on after it has cleared the legislative process.

First, it must be defended against sugar policy opponents, who are relentless in their efforts to effectively modify it through other legislative avenues. For example, we have to defend the bill from attacks through the annual appropriations
process that are almost certain to come.
Second, we have to make sure that the program is implemented in a manner based on congressional intent. This requires us to monitor the supply and demand balance every month to make sure that USDA is administering the policy properly.

Mexico — Everyone understands that the massive unrestricted imports from Mexico, brought about by the NAFTA, constitute the fundamental problem that prevents the domestic market from being in balance and creates pressure on U.S. sugar policy.

Growers should be reassured that industry leaders have been consumed by this problem for some time and are searching for effective solutions. It is difficult to be patient when the market is in turmoil, but we must have patience a little longer. These matters are complicated, and international diplomacy takes time. By the time you go to the field to plant the 2014 crop, I am hopeful that we will be on a path to resolving the problem in the near term. 

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — Much of our attention is now focused on the TPP negotiations as efforts move forward to complete the agreement. Negotiators were in Singapore in mid-February to work toward narrowing the outstanding differences among the 12 countries in the trade pact. The sugar industry’s international trade advisor, Don Phillips, was in Singapore to monitor the negotiations, apprise us of the status and provide important input to our negotiators. The difficulty lies in having a comprehensive free trade agreement when your market is already oversupplied as a result of a previous trade agreement.

Given congressional pushback on the President’s desire for Trade Promotion Authority (fast track) — which assures other countries that Congress will not amend a negotiated trade agreement — it is uncertain when the negotiations can be concluded.

Trade issues are always highly political, and sensitivities are heightened during an election year. The U.S. is negotiating market access with each individual country in the group. Negotiations with Japan will be one of the most difficult, particularly in agriculture. Australia is the largest sugar exporter and our greatest concern in the talks.
We have to make sure that the program is implemented in a
manner based on congressional intent.
Leadership Transition — We said a huge thank you and goodbye at the annual meeting to several dedicated leaders on our board of directors from across the nation. This is an expected transition once a farm bill is completed. They have been great servants to this industry and are stepping aside to bring new and very talented directors to our board.

A special thanks to former ASGA President Kelly Erickson for his tremendous leadership over the past two years and for getting the farm bill completed during his term. Kelly was outstanding in his work with other organizations, and his progressive thinking was crucial as we addressed the key problems facing the industry. We have truly been blessed by his hard work.

He hands the reins over to former Vice President John Snyder from Worland, Wyo. John is well prepared, with plenty of experience to face the challenges ahead. He will be assisted by Vice President Galen Lee, president of the Nyssa-Nampa Beet Growers (Oregon and eastern Idaho) and chairman of the International Affairs Committee. Our secretary/treasurer is Mark Olson from the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. This is a great leadership team of which every beet grower can be very proud.