During June and July, Washington was consumed by the theatrical negotiations among our government leaders in their efforts to avert defaulting on the nation’s debts on August 2. The size and timing of the spending cuts and a pitched battle over tax increases as part of the package have created major political challenges in achieving a solution. Most members of Congress, however, have a clear determination that a solution must be achieved, because the ramifications of inaction will negatively impact our nation and every citizen in a significant way.
On various occasions, the agriculture community has sent letters to the President and congressional leaders to express concern that agriculture not be asked to bear more than its fair share of federal spending cuts. In addition, it is very important that whatever the level of reductions required as the result of the negotiations, the policy changes should be left up to the committees of jurisdiction (i.e., the agriculture committees) in Congress. These committees understand the intricacies and the priorities of policies that impact agriculture.
One of the key questions in the debt debate is, “Do you do a ‘big deal’ with major changes, or string this process out over time with multiple smaller deals?”
The real answer is to do the big deal once. Make the painful decisions and lay out the new parameters, and then let the policymakers conform to meet the new spending constraints. If uncertainty lingers month after month with future political standoffs and tough political votes, committees are paralyzed in their efforts to craft policies that must be sustained for years to come. How would you write a farm bill if you were never really certain of the dollars available to fund a five-year bill? Once the ag committees get a spending number, the real policy debate over the next farm bill will begin. Stay tuned.
In mid-July, your grower leaders walked miles upon miles of hallways on Capitol Hill, talking with hundreds of lawmakers and staff. The message was simple and clear: “We have a no-cost sugar policy, and it is working for growers, processors, bankers, consumers and taxpayers.”
It was a message that was well received. You would be extremely proud of the job they did as ambassadors on your behalf. They left their farms during very busy times to do critically important work, and I ask that you express your deepest appreciation to them for their time and effort to make these visits.
A special “thank you” also goes out to ASGA Vice President Ruthann Geib for a massive undertaking to prepare and coordinate this effort. One of the coveted handouts during the visits was the ASGA sugarbeet ink pen (with a floating beet) that was designed by ASGA’s Brianne Blevins. Our outstanding summer intern, Heather Carlquist, was responsible for assembling all of the call materials. We have a great team behind our growers.
Roundup Ready Environmental Impact Statement
It is our sincere hope that a draft of the extensive Roundup Ready® Environmental Impact Statement will be available for public review sometime this fall. The draft will have a time period during which the public can submit comments in support of or opposition to the EIS.
Just as we did last winter, numerous comments of support from our industry will play an important part in USDA’s consideration and determination on the future status of the technology. May 2012 remains the expectation as to when a final deregulation decision will be made by USDA.
2012 ASGA Annual Meeting
Save the date for the 2012 ASGA Annual Meeting: February 9-11 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotel in Orlando, Fla.
Reservations must be made through the ASGA website to receive the group room rate of $239, which will be offered until December 19. Online meeting registration will be available beginning November 1. Visit the ASGA website for details — www.americansugarbeet.org.
Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.