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We had quite a few visitors to the Scottsbluff area last week.
Nebraska sugar beet farmers convened for our annual meeting; researchers shared their latest work; legislative aides for our elected officials discussed the upcoming Farm Bill and reiterated their support; and staff from our national coalition – the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) – flew from the East Coast to tour the sugar factory and get to know our community.
One comment made during their visit has stuck with me. An ASA representative observed: “If every lawmaker could just come to Scottsbluff and meet these families and see this community, then no one would ever try to weaken sugar policy.”
He saw what we’ve all known for generations. Western Nebraska is a special place made up of special people. Our little community humbly and proudly produces a reliable supply of premium sugar for grocery shoppers and food manufactures across the country.
No one here wants a handout. We just want the chance to tend our farms, work our businesses, raise our families and contribute to the community.
We want to be treated fairly, but unfortunately we are not being treated fairly right now. It’s been four years since Mexico broke U.S. trade law and wrecked our market with a flood of subsidized sugar.
While the trade problem was finally fixed last summer, we don’t get any compensation from Mexico for being injured. Much of our sugar had already been sold at depressed prices, and we will not see any benefits from a recovering market until the 2018 crop we harvest this Fall is sold. So, while the future looks brighter, we are still reeling.
Sugar makes Scottsbluff’s economy hum, but it’s been whimpering lately. Now, a handful of multi-national candy companies are lobbying Congress to make things worse.
Of course, these lobbyists have never set foot on a sugar farm or sugar factory. Yet, they are trying to rewrite the laws that will determine the future of our farms, our factories, our friends and our families.
These opponents of agriculture are looking to make it impossible for sugar producers to get the loans needed to support our operations while we store sugar for customers and await payment. And they want to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to oversupply the U.S. market with more subsidized imports.
The result of this plan, if adopted by Congress, would mean even lower prices and likely the end of a lot of sugar farms and factories. Obviously, this kind of low-priced environment would devastate Scottsbluff.
It’s a scary thought, but it got me thinking: “If every lawmaker could just come to Scottsbluff and meet these families and see this community, then no one would ever try to weaken sugar policy.”
That will never happen, but we can take Scottsbluff to Washington, D.C.
Another local grower, Mario Pitts, and I will travel to Washington this week where we will join dozens of sugar beet and sugarcane farmers nationwide to share our stories. At the end of two weeks, sugar farmers will have visited more than 320 congressional offices.
Our message is simple: “Don’t cut our families out of the Farm Bill.”
This will be one of the most important trips we’ve ever taken, and we are honored to represent the whole community there. Failure is not an option because if our sugar policy is weakened, things will look a lot different for future visitors to Scottsbluff.
About the author: Kendall Busch is a fourth-generation sugar beet farmer and current president of the Nebraska Sugarbeet Growers Association.
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March 7, 2018 at 03:17PM