As we reflect on this past year, its clear that it was not the return to normal that we had hoped. Both lingering and new challenges associated with the pandemic tested our resiliency. Disruptions in global supply chains, worker shortages, cost increases and weather seemed to intensify. While we can be thankful for widespread vaccines, good crop prices and timely rains, it’s not been easy. But just like our crop, our industry is tough and resilient.

Like you all, we held our breath here in Washington as we watched the growing season unfold. The intense drought this summer had us very alarmed. Our industry proactively worked with Congress over the summer and fall to ensure if the rains did not arrive disaster assistance would be close at hand. While we were successful in securing support, we hoped the industry would not need it. We are thankful in most cases it won’t be needed but appreciate that for many this was a difficult growing season.

Washington has not yet returned to normal. The combination of COVID variants and security concerns post Jan. 6 have kept the halls of Congress virtually empty from constituents, tourists and lobbyists. Most of our work remains with Zoom and phone contacts. With each passing presidential administration, it has taken longer to get agency leaders in place. We expect a good deal of turnover due to agency career staff retirements. Staff ended up liking remote work and don’t intend to return to offices. They will take a great deal of institutional knowledge with them. This lost knowledge is important for managing agency programs, so there will be many new people to educate.

A tremendous amount of time has been spent by Congressional leaders negotiating a two-part infrastructure bill. We, along with most other agriculture groups, have been working to protect existing tax provisions that growers rely on. It’s critical that our industry has the tools necessary to pass along farms to the next generation. Infrastructure, social spending, the debt ceiling, and funding the government will consume Congress until the end of the year.

Efforts to address climate change have only intensified over the last year. Legislative efforts either through reconciliation, the farm bill and beyond are inching closer to fully-fledged programs. We continue to position agriculture as an ally in this fight. Funding for voluntary and incentive-based programs continues to be the goal. Our hope is that farmers can gain additional revenue streams in the years to come, without overly burdensome regulation, while also reducing instances of extreme weather that impact our crop. But even today, we are fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in other spaces, including pesticide issues. These and other issues must be addressed to ensure our industry remains strong for many years to come.

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As we finish the harvest, we give thanks for all the blessings we have received and for all of the people who have helped our growers produce and process an essential ingredient of our food supply. Your grower leaders will be meeting in Washington this fall to meet with key government leaders and strategize on the challenges ahead. We encourage you to attend our annual meeting to learn more about our plan for 2022.

The 2022 ASGA Annual Meeting entitled, “Together Again to Shape Our Future,” will focus on key issues for our industry in the year ahead, especially the 2023 Farm Bill. The range of topics, speakers, program details, and registration can be found at www.americansugarbeet.org. The meeting returns to the beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona, on Sunday, Jan. 30, with a golf tournament, registration, and welcome receptions. General sessions will be held on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. The meeting concludes on Tuesday afternoon following the President’s Lunch. You can also make your hotel reservation and register for the meeting on our website.

May you take time to gather with your loved ones and friends over the holidays and know that in the end, friendship and love are the greatest gifts to give and receive. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Luther Markwart has been the executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association since 1982. Luther can be reached at lmarkwart@americansugarbeet.org.