The dawn of each new year brings reflections of the challenges, victories and losses of the past, and the excitement for new opportunities and navigating the obstacles that lie ahead. The pandemic has thrust upon us unimaginable challenges that have tested our strength and patience. A turbulent election season is over and the nation must begin anew.

You have a tremendous opportunity to join growers across the nation for ASGA’s Annual Meeting. Our virtual meeting will host key leaders in government and business that have a major impact on our industry. From sugar market insight and international trade to nutritional changes and federal policymakers, the program will inform your business decisions for the year to come. Speakers will provide insights that impact the trajectory of policies and market forces that impact your income. Go to our website americansugarbeet.org and register for the program from February 2 and 3. Programming is three hours each day. Please join us. This is a unique opportunity to join for free this year because of the generosity of our sponsors.

The Biden Administration will usher in new political leaders and a new agenda. The announcement of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture signals a moderate approach to governing. This choice values experience over politics. Even as a seasoned former Secretary, Vilsack has a tall task steering complex agriculture policies, feeding programs, and other priority issues, while also playing an outsized role in the Biden Administrations’ pandemic recovery. Secretary Vilsack has the knowledge, experience and a clear understanding of the needs of farmers and hungry people. Other appointments for positions important to sugar include: U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce Secretary, EPA Administrator, and sub-cabinet appointments for various departments and agencies.

The new Congress is almost evenly divided in both chambers. As such, both sides cannot afford defections on legislation or must find a middle ground that garners support from the middle. The two Georgia Senate races on January 5th will determine who controls the Senate and both are toss-up races driving both parties to generate voter turnout. A Republican-held Senate would further limit what proposals Democrats can get enacted into law. At the time of writing, we have 7 new Senators and roughly 50 new House members to educate on sugar policy in the coming months and all our work continues virtually.

2021 will also bring another big change for the sugar industry. Jack Roney, Director of Economics and Policy Analysis for the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) will be retiring after 30 years of service. Jack has been an essential leader for our industry. Every year he provides important economic analysis to inform our DC operations especially as we make our case before the Congress and Administration. Many of the arguments we make across the policy space are supported by facts and graphics that were drafted by Jack. When the media calls and wants one voice on sugar issues, Jack educates them and addresses their questions. He has been an outstanding professional and a dedicated leader with deep compassion for our industry. The beet and cane sugar industries owe Jack our greatest level of respect and appreciation for a tremendous career for our industry.

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Following Jack Roney will be Rob Johannson who will bring more than 20 years of government experience to the position. Johannson was recently the Chief Economist at USDA where he advised the Secretary of Agriculture, directed analysis of commodities, and managed the designs of various USDA programs. He has also worked at the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget under the Executive Office of the President. He received his Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota. We are blessed and thrilled to have Rob join our sugar family. Dr. Johannson will begin at ASA at the end of January and will work with Mr. Roney until he officially retires later this year. Join our annual meeting and meet both of them!

Lastly, with 2020 behind us, our staff is optimistic that our country will begin on the path to recovery. We hope for a better and healthier 2021. We wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.