The United States Senate passed a Farm Bill today that continues America’s no-cost sugar policy.
The House of Representatives likewise continued the current sugar policy in its version of the Farm Bill after overwhelmingly rejecting a proposal by agricultural critics to depress sugar farmers’ prices with subsidized imports.
"Today is a great day for America’s sugar farmers,” explained Rick Gerstenberger, a sugarbeet grower who serves as chairman of Michigan Sugar Company and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. "Prices are low, the rural economy is struggling, and foreign governments continue to manipulate markets, but at least we’ve got a chance to survive with a strong sugar policy in place.”
America’s sugar policy is designed to operate without taxpayer cost because producers receive loans that are repaid with interest instead of subsidy checks. America is one of the world’s biggest importers, but the policy keeps unneeded subsidized sugar from flooding the market.
"The anti-farmer proposal that lost by a landslide in the House would’ve rewarded foreign cheaters and cut sugar families out of the Farm Bill,” said Louisiana sugarcane farmer Greg Gravois. "Sugar has fueled rural communities since the country’s founding, but weakening sugar policy would lead to bankruptcies. Thankfully, Congress sided with farmers and kept sugar policy strong.”
Photo: Louisiana sugarcane farmer Greg Gravois and his extended family. Photo by Sam Irwin.
Sugar producers were quick to thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for their leadership in passing a bipartisan Senate Farm Bill. And dozens of Senators from sugar-producing states worked tirelessly to educate their colleagues about the importance of America’s sugar business and the 142,000 jobs it supports.
The American Sugar Alliance spotlighted many of those jobs and the farmers who make up the sugar industry as part of the Faces of Sugar Policy campaign. Throughout the campaign, growers and workers visited Capitol Hill and shared messages with legislators about how a strong sugar policy benefits their lives.
The Farm Bill will now head to a conference committee between the two chambers, where Senate and House leaders will iron out the differences. Sugar producers hope Congress finishes its work quickly so they have certainty to plan for the future.