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American sugar industry speaks with one voice

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American sugar industry speaks with one voice
By Jim Simon

American sugar production, although not as large as other commodities like corn and wheat, is a sizable industry as sugarcane and sugar beet growers can produce more than eight million tons of sugar annually. In 2016, The United States ranked as the world’s sixth largest sugar producing country.

Sugarcane and sugar beets are grown in 14 states but sugarcane refineries, beet sugar-producing factories and sugar distribution centers are in an additional 17 states making the economic impact of the sugar industry quite widespread in the United States. Like any far flung and diversified industry there are competing interests but the American Sugar Alliance does an outstanding job of representing the entire country and speaks for the industry with one voice. The Alliance is a national coalition of sugarcane and sugar beet producers that includes sugar farmers, sugar processors, sugar refiners, sugar suppliers and sugar workers. Its goal is to maintain a strong U.S. sugar industry.

In early August, representatives from the various sugar industry interests met in San Diego, California at the 34th annual International Sweetener Symposium to discuss challenges in farm policy, trade negotiation and consumer demand. The symposium is hosted by the Alliance.

In recent months, the sugar industry and the U.S. government negotiated a new trade agreement with Mexico to end years of unfair trade practices that cost the American industry more than $4 billion. In upcoming months, the Trump government administration will be crafting a new farm bill and there will be those who will seek to attack current sugar policy while the sugar industry will be striving to enhance the program. Another big area of concern is the so-called "war on sugar” and other food trends reducing consumer demand for our natural sweetener.

The common thread tying together all these delicate issues is the American Sugar Alliance.

The sugar beet and sugarcane industry has long known that it’s not necessary to have the most and loudest voices on Capitol Hill. Years of experience has taught us the best voice is one voice. That singular voice is forged in meetings like the International Sugar Symposium and spoken by the Alliance.

With the American Sugar Alliance representing cane and beet growers, we’ve managed to help government craft a solid sugar policy that allows American growers to compete in the sugar market year in and year out. The beauty of our domestic sugar policy is that it generally costs the American taxpayer nothing. The only year when there was a cost associated with the program was after two years of NAFTA trade violations by Mexico. That’s why a new trade negotiation with our southern neighbor was necessary. The Alliance led the way throughout the negotiations with Mexico.

The American sugar industry owes a debt of gratitude to the Alliance. Only through a united effort can the sugar industry continue to offer a plentiful, secure and reasonably priced sugar supply to American consumers. The American Sugar Alliance provides the backing, support and voice to meet this critical national need.

Jim SimonJim Simon is the manager of the American Sugar Cane League

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