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.
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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.
2013 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.
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.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.