Pictured on these pages are several of the speakers who addressed the 2011 meeting audience. Also speaking via prerecorded messages were Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the new chair of the House Agriculture Committee; Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), former House Ag chair and current ranking member; and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the new chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Admiral Beverage is the fifth largest bottler of Pepsi in North America. Having grown up in Worland and being very familiar with the beet sugar industry, Clay professed to being chagrined at not being able to use sugar in products bottled by his company after the soft drink industry’s transition to high fructose corn syrup in the 1980s. A few years ago, however, PepsiCo decided to come out with an LTO (limited time offering) of a sugar-sweetened product, “Pepsi Throwback.” Clay said his company lobbied to keep sugar in this product long term because it is “critically important in our marketplace.” They were one of just two bottlers allowed by PepsiCo to do so, and sales spiraled upward, as have those of “Mountain Dew Throwback” and additional sugar-containing products.
Clay expects Pepsi Throwback and other sugar-sweetened products to become permanent lines — which is good news for his company and for the beet sugar industry. “We’re really proud to be in the industry we’re in,” he told ASGA members. “And we’re really, really proud to use your product — sugar.”
Colacicco noted that the domestic sugar market today is not where Congress or USDA expected it would go when developing the 2008 farm bill.
“Our 2009 budget projection, done in late 2007, forecast significant and persistent sugar surpluses and federal expense due to the sugar program,” he said. With the full implementation of NAFTA as of January 2008, “we expected the lower-priced sweetener, HFCS, to flow into Mexico, and the higher-priced sweetener, sugar, to flow north, creating a U.S. surplus.”
Since then, of course, the market outlook has tightened significantly, to where “we forecast no sugar surpluses and no federal expense for the sugar program,” Colacicco observed. “The issue we now face is adequacy of supply.”
While affirming that there are important areas where users and producers of sugar work together (e.g., GMO beets), disagreement between the two segments can be strong when it comes to the need for and nature of U.S. sugar policy. SUA members want “adequate supplies at reasonable prices,” Green stated, adding that “we haven’t had that in recent years.”
The SUA leader said his group has been harmed by the basic structure of U.S. sugar policy, by changes made in the development of the 2008 farm bill, and by the program’s administration at USDA. “Your customers certainly think there’s a cost to sugar policy,” he stated, citing a perceived need for “serious fundamental reform.”
executive vice president; Kelly Erickson (Hallock, Minn.), vice president; Russ Mauch (Barney, N.D.), president; and Don Steinbeisser, Jr. (Sidney, Mont.), treasurer.