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.
— Farm Bill —
There were great hopes that the 2012 farm bill would be made part of the final deal to help reduce our nation’s annual deficits and staggering debt. The Administration, Senate and House Democrats wanted a farm bill as part of the final package, but House Republican leadership stalled those efforts at least until Christmas. When Congress left for its brief Christmas holiday, all indications were there would be some form of brief extension of the 2008 farm bill, with plans to complete it in early 2013. However, we are still in a period and a process where even the best predictions are, quite frankly, unpredictable.
As for sugar policy, we are now in a very different market scenario than when the House Agriculture Committee and the full Senate considered our policy. Given the oversupply of sugar in the world market, large beet and cane crops in both the U.S. and Mexico, and an additional 420,000 tons of imports allowed into the U.S. market (based on incorrect data at the time of the decision), we have seen both the raw and refined sugar markets collapse from previous-year levels. Will sugar users pass on savings of lower prices to consumers? They have not passed on savings in the past, and we do not expect that to occur in the future. It will make their arguments much more difficult to defend in another public debate.
Assuming the farm bill slips into next year and faces votes again in the Senate and House, there are many new members in both bodies that will need educating. We have 87 new members in the House and 15 in the Senate. With all of these new faces, we must work hard to educate them about the sugar industry and U.S. sugar policy.
We want to thank everyone who has participated in their political action committees, because it provides industry representatives the opportunity to speak directly to the members of Congress so they can better understand our issues and the strategic importance of our industry.
— Biotech --
On November 15, the last appeal on a Roundup Ready® issue was ruled on, ending a long legal battle over biotechnology in sugarbeets. We spent almost five years (1,755 days) in the courts during which we were engaged in four cases in two U.S. district courts (San Francisco and Washington, D.C.) and three appellate cases in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco).
It is our sincere hope the opponents of biotechnology will now cease their attacks on our efforts to raise our crop in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way. We have proven that the technology is safe, the sugar is the same as that from conventional production, and that our producers are great stewards in removing bolters and managing against weed resistance — because grower stewardship is essential to retain the value of the technology.
Biotech opponents, however, are renewing their efforts to pass state ballot initiatives to require labeling of foods that contain ingredients from biotech crops. While they lost such an effort in California last year, they are targeting Washington, Vermont and Connecticut. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other biotech crop producers to oppose such labeling efforts. Our American Sugarbeet Growers Association has established a new Biotechnology and Research Committee to monitor and engage in these types of efforts for the years to come, and we are prepared to face the challenges and opportunities before us.
— Crop Insurance --
Price election for 2013 will be $58.95, which is appropriate given the state of the current marketplace. One important change this year is that replant reimbursement will not be 1.5 times price election, but rather a fixed dollar amount of $80 per acre. We successfully sought this modification to avoid an annual battle to retain a more reasonable replant amount. When sugar prices drop, replant costs do not, so this is a great improvement over our traditional coverage.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.