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Mikkel Pates/Agweek

Sugar users back comprehensive policy revamp

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Red River Valley sugarbeet advocate say he's confident domestic sugar producers can convince Congress to reject yet another attempt to dismantle the U.S. sugar program.

The Sugar Policy Modernization Act proposal is different than previous attacks in that it is a "comprehensive dismantling of sugar policy," said Kevin Price, director of governmental affairs for American Crystal Sugar Co., who lobbies on behalf of the Moorhead, Minn., based beet cooperative.

Price likened the difference to that of a shotgun blast, rather than the rifle shots of the past that have addressed pieces of the policy. "They're trying to tear it down from A to Z," Price said. "We've seen all of these ideas before. None of them have been accepted by Congress, and we anticipate Congress will reject this as well."

U.S. sugar policy supports domestic production by limiting imports of sugar that domestic producers say are often subsidized by foreign governments.

The Sweetener Users Association applauded the act and its sponsors Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Danny Davis, D-Ill.; and Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. "The legislation has already been endorsed by dozens of cosponsors in the House and Senate," the SUA said.

Does it all

The sugar users — all customers of American Crystal and its marketing arm — said the act "does it all" and would "help American businesses of all sizes, consumers, workers and families — without costing taxpayers."

"It is very rare that Congress has the chance to consider legislation that will do so much for so many," said Rick Pasco, president of the SUA. The act "reforms unnecessary sugar regulations" and ensures that companies can "access sugar when they need it." By assuring "access to reasonable supplies" the bill "will encourage companies to continue manufacturing food and beverages in the United States, not offshore."

The SUA cited a Commerce Department study that said three U.S. manufacturing jobs are lost for "every sugar-related job" preserved by current sugar "subsidies."

"The bill leaves in place smart protections to ensure the sugar market operates freely without unnecessary government intrusion — and without costs to taxpayers," the SUA said.

The SUA described sugar as "the most tightly controlled commodity in the United States" and the "only commodity not reformed by Congress in the 2014 farm bill." They contend that the current policy forces American consumers to pay "up to $3 billion a year to subsidize very profitable U.S. sugar processors."

Price thinks the logic that will defeat the bill is the knowledge that the current policy supplies reasonably priced sugar of trustworthy supply, supports jobs and at zero cost to the taxpayer.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Price said.