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Published April 10, 2014, 03:42 PM

Berg to testify in sugar trade action

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission are about to make their first steps in determining merits of a pair of trade cases filed March 28 by U.S. sugar producers and processors. The cases allege unfair subsidization and dumping of Mexican sugar into the U.S.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — The U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission are about to make their first steps in determining merits of a pair of trade cases filed March 28 by U.S. sugar producers and processors. The cases allege unfair subsidization and dumping of Mexican sugar into the U.S.

The Department of Commerce will determine April 17 whether or not sugar products are being dumped in the U.S. market below a fair value, and whether the imported product is being subsidized. The department will decide whether or not to investigate.

In a parallel action, the ITC will hold its first conference on April 18 — a staff-level hearing to gather information on whether the domestic sugar industry is suffering material injury as a result of subsidization of sugar by Mexico, or dumping in the U.S. at prices below what it would normally receive in Mexico.

David Berg, president and CEO of American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minn., will speak on behalf of beet sugar processors at the April 18 meeting, along with Jon Snyder of Worland, Wyo., president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. Two counterparts will speak on behalf of U.S. cane sugar processors and growers.

Similar to a hearing, the conference is open to the public and will be held in the U.S. ITC main hearing room at 9:30 a.m. Berg declined to discuss what his testimony will be, in advance of the conference.

The petitions

The American Sugar Coalition was created to file the two petitions with the two agencies on behalf of several trade groups. The coalition is representing the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, American Sugar Cane League, American Sugar Refining Inc., Florida Sugar Cane League, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers Inc., Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and the United States Beet Sugar Association.

The earliest any duties could be imposed if the allegations are found to be warranted would be August 2014, and the impact might not be felt until the next crop.

Sugar beet farmers have seen their projected payments for beets decline sharply, in large part blamed on a glut of sugar created by the Mexican imports. In December 2013, American Crystal projected prices for beets at $38 per ton — about half of what it paid farmers for their crops the year before.

From March 8 to 14, FNCAgStock.com sold 707 shares at $1,550 per share, and from March 14 to April 8 sold 871 shares at $1,600. The only exception was March 26 when 25 shares sold at $1,650 per share.

Jayson Menke, an AgStock specialist, says his company has handled a record-high volume of beet share sales during this marketing season, since September — more than double a typical year. He says some buyers see lowers share prices as an opportunity.

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