Roundup Ready Litigation ~ Sugar Market ~ 2012 Farm Bill Hearings ~ 2010 Elections ~ 2010 ASGA Cleavinger Intern ~ Mark Your Calendars
On April 27, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the Roundup Ready® alfalfa case. As you will recall, the beet sugar industry filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to present our industry’s views on key legal issues in the case.
On June 21, the Supreme Court, in its first decision involving biotech crops, overturned (by a vote of 7-1) a lower court’s order that has prohibited farmers from planting biotech alfalfa. Retiring Justice Stevens was the only dissenting vote. This ruling could allow USDA to permit interim planting of the crop while it completes an environmental study.
The beet sugar industry is pleased with this significant ruling and how it might impact the biotech sugarbeet process as we prepare for the next phase of court proceedings. The alfalfa ruling focuses on and clarifies the process of biotech approvals. Importantly, the Supreme Court’s ruling on biotech alfalfa does not presume that an injunction on planting biotech crops would be automatically issued if a biotech approval is challenged.
In the Roundup Ready sugarbeet litigation, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has asked both the plaintiffs and the defendant/defendant interveners to submit briefs to the court on our respective views as to the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the sugarbeet case now pending before the court. Plaintiffs’ briefs were filed on July 6, and the defendants’ briefs were filed on July 14. Given the additional time required for the filing and consideration of the briefs, the court rescheduled the July 9 court remedy hearing to August 13.
June estimates by USDA forecast U.S. sugar inventories at the end of September at 10.7%. That would leave 1.1 million tons of sugar in inventory, which is tighter than in previous years.
On June 11, the domestic beet and cane industries, along with sugar users, called on USDA to announce next year’s minimum imports (which are fixed under the 2008 farm bill) so they can be physically available for entry on (but not before) October 1.
On July 6, USDA announced an increase in raw sugar imports of 300,000 short tons of raw sugar for the current fiscal year. The U.S. Trade Representative has allocated the imports to 25 countries that have the ability to ship sugar to the U.S. before September 30, which is the last day of the 2010 fiscal year.
This is both a timely and reasonable amount of imports for this period to keep the market in balance when domestic inventories are at their lowest. This announcement comes on top of an April 27 announcement of additional imports of 200,000 tons of raw sugar.
These two announcements come at times when there is much greater certainty about both the supply and demand in the marketplace. The uncertainty of what Mexico will ship to the U.S. is one of the main factors that require USDA to make adjustments to imports later in the fiscal year. USDA is managing the sugar policy as prescribed by the 2008 farm bill in a proper and thoughtful manner.
2012 Farm Bill Hearings
The House Ag Committee has been holding preliminary hearings around the country and in Washington, D.C., and subcommittees also are beginning to hold hearings in D.C. The Senate Ag Committee held its first hearing on June 30.
Whenever and wherever appropriate, beet and cane producers are testifying to both the importance and effectiveness of the current sugar policy.
By mid-June, half of the states had conducted their primaries, setting the stage for November elections. In the House, candidates for 243 contests (56% of all House seats) were determined, and 14 of the 34 Senate seats (41% of the 100 total) were selected.
We are always trying to identify political trends, given the issues of the day. High unemployment, continued housing sector problems, frustration over bailouts, staggering federal deficits and debt, two prolonged wars, health care legislation, climate change proposals, and an environmental disaster in the Gulf are just some of the key factors on the minds of voters. Add to all of this the publicity and perceived influence of the Tea Party movement, unexpected congressional retirements, and reactions to Democratic leadership in both Houses and the White House.
So what have the primaries revealed? The electorate remains “quirky.” There is no clear, distinct trend that you can count on right now. For the most part, most congressional districts were drawn to favor either the Democrats or Republicans, so massive structural shifts are unlikely.
In the last election, some Republican districts went to the Democrats out of frustration with the Bush Administration. Clearly, these are the most vulnerable districts, and it is likely some of those will swing back out of frustration with the Obama Administration. As a result, Democrats will lose seats in both the House and Senate — but no one can predict with certainty the extent of the losses. To retake the majority, Republicans need to keep the seats they have and gain 40 in the House and 10 in the Senate.
The American attention span for election activity is short, which is why both parties save their best arguments and strategies for after Labor Day.
Perhaps you can appreciate the views of one historical observer who captures the American voter’s thinking today. He said, “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled. The assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.” — Cicero, 55 BC
So what have we learned in 2,065 years?
2010 ASGA Cleavinger Intern
Many thanks to Ashlyn Gurley, a senior from the University of Michigan, for all of her great work this summer. Ashlyn conducted a great deal of important research for our industry that will be very useful as we prepare for the next farm bill.
As always, it was a great opportunity for her to work closely with our staff and learn the many aspects of association work in Washington, D.C. We thank Bayer CropScience for helping to fund this important program that helps our growers.
Mark Your Calendars
ASGA’s 2011 annual meeting will be held February 6-8 at the beautiful Westin La Paloma in Tucson, Ariz. Meeting details, links and information will be updated regularly on the ASGA website — www.americansugarbeet.org — with online preregistration coming soon.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.