2014 Elections - Voter frustration with Washington’s lack of political leadership, civility and productivity was evident in the November 4 mid-term elections. What does the shift to a Republican majority in both Houses mean for the next two years? First, Republicans need to show they can pass important legislation.
This means each of the appropriations bills must be considered and completed individually — a practice that has not happened in many years. This process will, unfortunately, provide opportunities to attack farm bill provisions during consideration of the Agricultural Appropriations bill, so we will need to work very hard to protect the sugar provisions, crop insurance and other important elements in the farm bill.
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Agriculture groups will need to close ranks and work together. With 12 new senators and 57 new House members (as of November 12), a tremendous education process about the sugar industry and policy needs to take place early next year. Grower leaders will be headed to Washington to do that, and your support of them and your political action committee will be crucial in carrying out this essential work.
Second, Republicans need to be very cautious as to the issues they will pursue and the approach they will take. They will have to thread the political needle very carefully. While they have a majority in both houses, they do not have enough votes to override presidential vetoes. They need to take positions that appeal to minority voters, because those voters will be needed to win the White House in 2016.
Some bills are expected to be passed with the full expectation of a presidential veto in order to use it as a campaign issue against the Democrats’ “brand” going into the elections. Other legislative priorities will include trade, immigration, tax reform and transportation infrastructure.
In 2016, the Republicans will have to defend 24 seats in the Senate, compared to only 10 Democrat seats. The majority of those seats are in states that voted quite convincingly for President Obama. Unlike the House of Representatives, where gerrymandered districts will give many congressional members a fairly high level of political security for the next 10 years, senators do not have that kind of protection. They do not want to jeopardize the loss of control over not only the legislative agenda, but also its role to confirm top political appointees and judges. Voters typically like the checks and balances in the branches of government, so what happens on Capitol Hill can help or hurt the Republican candidate for President — whomever the nominee is.
Third, the race is on for the White House. It is the next big political event upon which voters will focus. Republicans desperately want the White House so they can address regulatory issues and replace aging judges on the Supreme Court. Given the razor-thin vote that President Obama received in the last presidential election, Democrats cannot afford a brutal primary fight, so they must rally behind a single candidate early on. With Hillary Clinton as the odds-on favorite, everyone awaits her formal decision to run.
Republicans also understand that a repeat of the brutal 2012 debate among multiple presidential candidates in a long primary process is detrimental to success. So the challenge will be to solidify around a single candidate early in the process who has a more moderate appeal. We shall see how that plays out.
With 12 new senators and 57 new House members (as of November 12),
a tremendous education process about the sugar industry
and policy needs to take place early next year.
Mexico - Preliminary countervailing and antidumping duties were imposed in August and October, respectively, as a response to unfair trading practices by the Mexican sugar industry. At the time the antidumping duties were announced, the U.S. and Mexican governments also announced proposed suspension agreements negotiated between them that would provide limits on how much sugar could be exported by Mexico to the U.S. and at a price floor that would address the threat of dumping.
Such agreements are complicated, with substantial legal work and consultation among industry leaders, so details cannot be discussed publically until the agreements are finalized and signed. We will then have an opportunity to dissect the details and analyze what it all means for our industry.
2015 Annual Meeting - Sugarbeet growers should plan to attend the 2015 ASGA Annual Meeting in Long Beach, Calif., on February 1-3. The program sessions and speakers will examine the core issues that will shape the future of the industry in the coming year: Politics, Policies, Trade, Biotech and Consumption.
Social events will give you the opportunity to visit with other sugarbeet growers and industry suppliers from around the country.
The ASGA website — www.americansugarbeet.org — has the information you need to register for this important meeting, make your hotel reservations, plan your trip, and enjoy the southern California sun, attractions and beaches.
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Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.