You may not be aware of it, but a battle is brewing in our nation’s capital that pits farmers like me against big food companies that want to drive down farmers’ prices by flooding our market with subsidized imports.
If you live in Imperial County, or anywhere in California – our nation’s top producing agriculture state – this should concern you.
Agriculture accounts for $4.5 billion or nearly 26 percent of Imperial County’s total economic output. Almost 25,000 jobs are directly or indirectly related to agriculture. California produced over $46 billion in farm receipts in 2016. And, we are a key contributor to our county and state economy.
I’m a third generation Imperial County farmer and second-generation sugar farmer. My family has been farming in this valley for almost 90 years and has been growing sugar beets for the past 50 years. More than half of the 500 plus acres I farm are dedicated to sugar beets. I grow Durum wheat, alfalfa and orchard grass on the rest of my land, but growing sugar beets is what feeds my family and sustains my business.
As Congress debates the Farm Bill, multinational food manufacturers – the ones that use the sugar I produce to make sweets – are bankrolling a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign in D.C. targeting sugar producers and are disguising their true intentions under the guise of “modest reform.”
These companies want Congress to mandate that America bring in unneeded supplies of subsidized sugar so they can drive down U.S. farmers’ prices and buy sugar for even less than they are paying now.
It’s important to note that U.S. consumers are already paying about 20% less for sugar than consumers in other developed countries, and the price I get for my crop is lower today than it was in 1980.
Farm policy opponents also are trying to prohibit sugar producers from accessing loans that are available to other crops. In effect, this plan would cut sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill currently before Congress, leaving us without any safety net to face the world’s most distorted commodity market.
The special interests pushing this sour scheme say they support farmers and that their “reforms” to America’s existing zero-cost sugar policy are “modest.” But there is nothing “pro-farmer” or “modest” about their proposal, which we call the “Sugar Farmer Bankruptcy Bill.”
You should oppose it if you support local jobs, too. The Spreckels Sugar processing facility in Brawley is the last remaining facility of its type in the state. It produces beet sugar as well as beet derivative products and provides hundreds of jobs to our friends and neighbors. Yet this anti-farmer legislation threatens its very existence.
If we want to continue to provide the country and the world with the best food products in the market, we all need to stick together to beat back this anti-farm, anti-worker bill.
Von Medearis is a third generation Imperial County farmer and a second generation sugar beet farmer. His family has been farming in Imperial County since the 1930’s.