Locals to House: Pass the sugar, please

The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee rejected, by a vote of 36 to 10, an amendment last Wednesday that would have undermined the U.S. sugar industry.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would have eliminated policies that for 80 years protected sugar cane growers and refiners by limiting imports. It would have also taken tools away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the agency uses to avoid asking for farm subsidies and thus prevents taxing Americans.

Goodlatte’s proposed legislation would have restricted domestic sugar pricing, allowed Brazil to join Mexico with unlimited imports – thanks to the Free Trade Agreement – and flooded the U.S. with imported sugar, ultimately resulting in a loss of jobs among America’s 142,000 sugar cane growers, sugar beet growers and mill workers.

It was the fourth time in a month that anti-sugar legislation, backed in large part by candy and soft drink manufacturers, was defeated.

Leading the resistance, and closely watching the House agriculture committee, which has no Louisiana representatives, have been members of Louisiana’s sugar industry.

Thibodaux-based American Sugar Cane League General Manager Jim Simon was among industry experts that went to Washington and spoke out against the select amendment to the 2013-17 U.S. House of Representatives farm bill.

Simon pointed out that existing sugar policies have operated at no cost to taxpayers through farm subsidies since 2002. They have held retail U.S. sugar prices at a consistently low level domestically when compared to other nations. Current policies have also protected a 1.8 million ton surplus, equaling 12 pounds more actual cane sugar per year than the estimated 60 pounds the average American already consumes.

The farm bill now goes to the full House for consideration. Once approved, it will need to be merged with the Senate farm bill and approved in final form. President Obama must sign it into law before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Terrebonne Parish is historically known as a founding location for sugar cane research leading to disease control and increased crop usage. Southdown Plantation won its fame as a leader in sugar cane study. The parish is now home to the USDA Sugar Cane Research Unit.

St. Mary and Lafourche parishes are among the state’s 23 areas that grew and processed a total 11.92 million tons of sugar cane in 2011.

Sugar cane farming and processing is important to the Tri-parish region.

We encourage the ASCL and other Louisiana-friendly business and industry associations to continue watching out for our economic interests when dealing with Congress.