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Sugarbeet Growers Magazine February 2014 : Page 10

Dateline: Washington Farm Bill — As of January 20, it appears that the last great hurdle of completing the farm bill is being re-solved. Getting an agreement on dairy policy has held up the farm bill completion for weeks, and finally all of the key players in the debate may have found a way to exit the conflict, embrace a policy and move the farm bill to its conclusion. We will expect the bill to be passed by both Houses and to the President’s desk for sig-nature in early February. This has been a farm bill like no other. Now it must be defended from opponents who will seek various means and legislative opportunities to attack and undermine it. The bat-tles over sugar policy are never over. Trade — You are now hearing more and more about “Trade Promo-tion Authority” (TPA) — commonly referred to as “fast track” negotiat-ing authority. Congress gives the authority to the President to negoti-ate international trade agreements that Congress can only approve or disapprove — not amend or fili-buster. Trading partners will not submit their final negotiating posi-tions if they know that Congress has the authority to amend the agree-ment once it has been negotiated. Within that authority, there are required consultations with Con-gress, as well as certain parameters for the negotiations. As the 12-coun-try Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations head toward a conclu-sion in 2014, it is essential that the Obama Administration has the TPA to complete the toughest and most sensitive issues (like sugar) in the negotiations. Concerns are being raised by members of Congress that agreements could supersede U.S. wage, safety and environmental laws. Other issues of concern are foreign currency manipulation, food safety laws, state-owned businesses, online commerce, etc. While the bulk of the negotiations are noncon-troversial and can be agreed to with-By Luther Markwart Executive Vice President American Sugarbeet Growers Assn. beet cooperatives for stepping up to help support efforts to convince Jackson County residents to reject the proposed prohibition. The other major battle will be over food labeling at the state and federal levels of products using in-gredients derived from biotech crops. With the defeat of state ballot initia-tives in California and Washington State over the past two years, and a possibility of four more states this year, a federal standard is required to avoid a patchwork set of commer-cially untenable labeling require-ments. Food manufacturers, retailers, commodity and farm groups, technology providers and other stakeholders across the value chain will support proposed legisla-tion that will address any concerns for consumers. We will be battling the organic and anti-GMO groups who want mandatory labeling on everything derived from a GM plant, even when the ingredient is identical to its con-ventional or organic counterpart. This will be a very big, loud, expen-sive and bruising debate. There is no speculation at this point on a timeline as to when this issue will be resolved, but it will consume our at-tention in the months ahead. Elections — The 2014 election season is now well underway, and quite a number of retirements have already been announced. We will see a lot of new faces in the next Congress. With your dedicated sup-port through your political action committee, we can meet and visit with prospective candidates regard-ing support for our industry and our policy. This should be a very high priority for each and every grower. Internship — College-age per-sons interested in working in the ASGA office for six to eight weeks this summer can apply online at Applications are due no later than March 31. O out TPA, it must be in place before their completion. With it being an election year and the chairman of the Senate Fi-nance Committee, Max Baucus, leav-ing soon to become U.S. Ambassador to China, it is uncertain when the TPA will be passed. You will see a strong push as soon as it is com-pleted to finalize the negotiations. There will probably not be a vote on a final agreement until after the No-vember elections. Crop Insurance — As you may know, the price election for the 2014 crop is set at $40 per ton, and there is no justification at this time to in-crease it above that level. In a de-pressed and uncertain market environment that is driven mainly by unpredictable exports from Mex-ico, our ability to manage risks has become increasingly more difficult. The good news is that we moved from a variable replant reimburse-ment (1.5 times price election) to a fixed amount of $80 per acre. We made it clear a couple of years ago that when sugar prices collapse, sugar production costs do not. Biotech — There are two key is-sues that our industry is focusing on in 2014. First, there is a ballot initiative in Jackson County, Ore., to prohibit the production of any biotech crop in the county. The rest of the counties in Oregon are pre-empted by a state law that was passed in 2013. Jack-son County had already begun a bal-lot initiative process and is allowed to complete it before it falls under the state pre-emption rules there-after. County residents will cast their ballots on this initiative as part of the primary balloting (mail-in ballot) that is held May 6-20. Basic sugarbeet seed is produced in Jackson County, which is then used to produce commercial sugar-beet seed in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Many thanks to our sugar-10 THE SUGARBEET GROWER February 2014

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