2018 is going to be a good year for sugarbeet growers. With the amended Mexican antidumping and countervailing duty suspension agreements going into effect last October, the beet crop going into the ground this spring will fully benefit from the price recovery provided by the amended agreements. Yes, there is and always will be work to defend and maintain the suspension agreements and make sure that Mexico complies with the provisions, but it is in the interest of both governments and industries that these agreements work as they were intended. These agreements will manage sugar imports from Mexico so there is no need for any discussions with Mexico regarding sugar in the NAFTA negotiations. What everyone must also realize is that USDA needs the best production and consumption data available to determine how much additional sugar is needed from Mexico or other quota-holding countries. Working with USDA to get that critical information is very important so they do not make decisions that oversupply the U.S. sugar market with imports. This is a very high priority for our industry.
Tax Reform: Much of the focus this fall has been on the tax reform bill as it makes dramatic reforms to lower corporate taxes and remove a number of personal deductions. Section 199, or the Domestic Production Activities Deduction (DPAD), was eliminated in both the House and Senate tax bills. The DPAD is calculated as 9% of qualified production activities income of the taxpayer (in our case, the cooperative), capped at 50% of cumulative W-2 wages of cooperative employees. Cooperatives can retain it at the cooperative and use it for capital improvements or pass the deduction through to their members. Section 199 is especially valuable to the grower-owners of cooperatives because their share of the cooperative’s DPAD is based off their share of the total beet payment (or patronage) paid to growers, not corporate profits. It is likely that without this deduction, grower taxes could go up--not down. Senator Hoeven (R-ND) led the charge to amend the Senate tax bill to retain Section 199 and had the support of 194 organizations, and eight senators cosponsored the amendment. But the amendment faced a budget point of order which would have required a 60-vote margin instead of a simple majority to gain Senate approval, so the amendment was not offered.
There is a flurry of activities in Washington this summer that will impact the beet sugar industry in the months and years ahead. Here are a few of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.