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.
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.”
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.
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.
2012 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%).
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.
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.
Grower leaders are making hundreds of visits on Capitol Hill in late February and March to tell your story about the need for a strong domestic sugar policy. This is a huge effort on their part, and they deserve the blessings and appreciation from all of our growers. They will knock on lots of doors and talk to hundreds of people. Because of your strong support for your political action committees, they will visit with many members of Congress at numerous political fundraisers. Thank you for the PAC support that helps them, and us, communicate your message directly to the legislators. There are many challenges before us and very aggressive opponents who are threatening our sugar policy.
Election Year & the U.S. House
The rule of thumb in Washington is that there is not much legislating that goes on during an election year. That observation will be absolutely true in 2012, for a number of reasons.
Roundup Ready Sugarbeets
The 60-day public commenting period for the draft Environmental Impact Statement ended on December 13. A preliminary count indicated more than 1,400 unique comments being submitted for the record, of which roughly 90% were favorable and 10% in opposition to the full deregulation of Roundup Ready® sugarbeets. Your individual comments were very helpful to have as part of the public record in support of the technology, so we thank you for the time and effort you took to make a submission.
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Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.