Above: The 2011 ASGA audience hoists a toast — with cans of sugar-sweetened “Pepsi Throwback” — to Kelly Clay (front, center) and Admiral Beverage, the Worland, Wyo.-based company that has championed the use of sugar in its products. Shown with Clay are his good friend John Snyder (left), president of the Washakie Beet Growers Cooperative, and Russ Mauch, ASGA president. - Photo: ASGA
Though abnormally cold temperatures in southern Arizona preceded the 2011 annual meeting of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, both the thermometer and the ambiance indoors were considerably warmer by the time the event got underway on February 6. Approximately 340 growers, spouses and affiliated industry gathered in Tucson for this year’s meeting, with representatives from all U.S. (and Canadian) beet growing regions.
Pictured on these pages are several of the speakers who addressed the 2011 meeting audience. Also speaking via prerecorded messages were Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the new chair of the House Agriculture Committee; Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), former House Ag chair and current ranking member; and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the new chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Left: ASGA President Russ Mauch (left) is pictured with Kelly Clay of Worland, Wyo., who received a special “Friend of the Sugarbeet Industry” award from ASGA during this year’s annual meeting. Clay is president/CEO of Admiral Beverage, which bottles and distributes a broad portfolio of soft drinks and other beverages across several western states.
Admiral Beverage is the fifth largest bottler of Pepsi in North America. Having grown up in Worland and being very familiar with the beet sugar industry, Clay professed to being chagrined at not being able to use sugar in products bottled by his company after the soft drink industry’s transition to high fructose corn syrup in the 1980s. A few years ago, however, PepsiCo decided to come out with an LTO (limited time offering) of a sugar-sweetened product, “Pepsi Throwback.” Clay said his company lobbied to keep sugar in this product long term because it is “critically important in our marketplace.” They were one of just two bottlers allowed by PepsiCo to do so, and sales spiraled upward, as have those of “Mountain Dew Throwback” and additional sugar-containing products.
Clay expects Pepsi Throwback and other sugar-sweetened products to become permanent lines — which is good news for his company and for the beet sugar industry. “We’re really proud to be in the industry we’re in,” he told ASGA members. “And we’re really, really proud to use your product — sugar.”
Left: Dan Colacicco, director of the Dairy and Sweetener Analysis Group at USDA’s Farm Service Agency, provided the ASGA audience with a review of the U.S. sugar program and how it has been operating since passage of the 2008 farm bill. Colacicco’s group is responsible for administering the domestic portion of the program.
Colacicco noted that the domestic sugar market today is not where Congress or USDA expected it would go when developing the 2008 farm bill. “Our 2009 budget projection, done in late 2007, forecast significant and persistent sugar surpluses and federal expense due to the sugar program,” he said. With the full implementation of NAFTA as of January 2008, “we expected the lower-priced sweetener, HFCS, to flow into Mexico, and the higher-priced sweetener, sugar, to flow north, creating a U.S. surplus.”
Since then, of course, the market outlook has tightened significantly, to where “we forecast no sugar surpluses and no federal expense for the sugar program,” Colacicco observed. “The issue we now face is adequacy of supply.”
Right: Randy Green, president of the Sweetener Users Association, brought a different perspective to the discussion of the U.S. sugar program. SUA members — companies producing everything from bakery/cereal products and confectioneries to ice cream and beverages — account for 57% of U.S. sugar deliveries.
While affirming that there are important areas where users and producers of sugar work together (e.g., GMO beets), disagreement between the two segments can be strong when it comes to the need for and nature of U.S. sugar policy. SUA members want “adequate supplies at reasonable prices,” Green stated, adding that “we haven’t had that in recent years.”
The SUA leader said his group has been harmed by the basic structure of U.S. sugar policy, by changes made in the development of the 2008 farm bill, and by the program’s administration at USDA. “Your customers certainly think there’s a cost to sugar policy,” he stated, citing a perceived need for “serious fundamental reform.”
Left: ASGA’s leadership team for 2011 includes, left to right: Luther Markwart,
executive vice president; Kelly Erickson (Hallock, Minn.), vice president; Russ Mauch (Barney, N.D.), president; and Don Steinbeisser, Jr. (Sidney, Mont.), treasurer.
Right: Mary Coffey Alonzo is director of the USDA Risk Management Agency’s Actuarial and Product Design Division. She overviewed RMA’s extensive internal product development process, and also outlined the various challenges involved in developing revenue coverage for sugarbeets, from RMA’s perspective.
Left: Larry Combest, a former House Ag Committee chairman who now works on behalf of the American Sugar Alliance, reviewed the 2008 farm bill record and looked toward 2012. “I will put the farm program record up against any other government spending,” he stated. “Stay involved, stay united, keep marching forward,” he advised ASGA members.
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower