If you’ve been paying attention to the Farm Bill debate in Washington, you might have noticed some lawmakers are pushing an amendment they say is a “modest reform” of the nation’s sugar policy.
It’s titled the Sugar Policy Modernization Act and it’ll likely be offered as an amendment to the Farm Bill currently pending in Congress. I’m a sugar beet farmer so I am laser focused on the amendment.
When farmers showed the Foxx-Davis plan to the bankers who loan us money to grow our crops, and to the accountants who do our taxes, they were shocked. The people who have the deepest insight into farmers’ financials instantly realized that these “modest reforms” would put many farmers out of business.
We’ve since renamed the proposal the “Sugar Farmer Bankruptcy Bill” because it effectively cuts us out of the Farm Bill.
The bill sponsors shouldn’t surprise anyone. U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, and Danny Davis, D-Ill., in the House and Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., in the Senate.
It’s a group that has opposed past Farm Bills and championed anti-agriculture measures before. And it’s a group that has never stepped foot on a sugar farm or taken the time to meet the families they’re trying to put out of business.
Multinational food manufacturers clearly designed this terrible scheme, even bankrolling a lobbying effort behind it.
This special interest bill is supposed to give candy companies more profits by mandating that the U.S. Department of Agriculture flood the market with imported sugar. That sugar would come from nations such as Mexico, Brazil and Thailand, where industries get government handouts and use appallingly low labor and environmental conditions to push export prices below their own cost of production.
This bill isn’t good for businesses, consumers, workers, families or taxpayers. It won’t mean cheaper food — sugar today already costs less than it did in 1980. It will only reward foreign cheaters and help a handful of big food companies further boost their profits.
More than 140,000 Americans work in the sugar industry, either as farmers or in factories. If this reform goes through, they’ll lose their jobs, including many people right here in Michigan.
In Washington, D.C., folks who want to put you out of business use terms like “modernization” and “reform.” But here on the farm, we know what that really means. We see through the slick DC talk.
At least we have champions like Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. And U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, Paul Mitchell and John Moolenaar. I know they won’t let this amendment through. They will fight to keep our no-cost sugar policy intact.
Darrin Siemen is a fourth-generation sugar beet grower who farms with his family in Harbor Beach, Michigan.