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Sugarbeet Growers Magazine March 2014 : Page 8

The 2014 Agenda ASGA Executive Vice President Outlines Priority Areas for the Coming Year T he Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law by President Obama on February 7, bringing to con-clusion the overdrawn, exhaustive process that actually began back in 2010 with the first U.S. House Agricul-tural Committee hearings. Fittingly, the American Sugarbeet Growers As-sociation Board of Directors was gath-ered in Tampa, Fla., on that signing day, in advance of the ASGA annual meeting, and as a group viewed the signing live on C-Span. So how long will ASGA sit back and relax now that the new farm bill has been signed into law? A more-accurate phrasing of that question would be: How long did ASGA sit back and relax? The answer: about one week. As ASGA members mingled in Tampa during their 2014 annual meeting, ap-pointments were already being made to meet with members of Congress and their staffs. Association leaders were back in D.C. in mid-February, thanking House and Senate members for their support of sugar in the new farm bill and simultaneously working to ensure none of the sugar provisions would be jeopardized during the appropriations phase. That’s one of ASGA’s main priori-ties in 2014, noted Luther Markwart, the group’s executive vice president, in his closing remarks to association members on February 11. While there’s always a plethora of challenges facing the sugar sector, Markwart fo-cused on five priority areas on the as-sociation’s agenda for the coming year: • Addressing the Mexico Im-port Problem — The unrestricted ex-ports of sugar from Mexico into the United States have been a major rea-son for the past year’s dramatically lower sugar prices, Mark-wart pointed out. “Clearly, that is the source of many of the challenges we Luther Markwart face going for-ward,” he stated. “We’ve been working, we are working — and we’re going to continue to work as fast as we can to address and fix that problem.” • Defending Sugar Provisions of the Farm Bill — Though sugar came out of the farm bill process in good shape, threats remain. “As the appropriations bills move forward, we have to guard against attacks during that process,” Markwart emphasized. “So our job is to go back to mem-bers [of Congress] and say, ‘Thank you, thank you. And now that we have a farm bill, if anybody tries to mess with it, say no. Vote against that.’ ” Another message to Congress, Markwart added, concerns the past year’s sugar market collapse. When sugar prices were higher, he pointed out, “our opposition was saying, ‘We’re getting killed out here. Sugar prices are more than 70% higher than they used to be. We need some relief. Change the sugar policy!’ “But then, without changing any-thing in the policy, the price of sugar collapsed by more than 50%,” Mark-wart noted. “So we have to re-educate those members [of Congress] and say, ‘What you’ve been hearing from our cus-tomers is no longer true. The price has collapsed — and those prices are at levels [similar] to the mid-1980s.’ ” It is true, Markwart said, that the sugar policy has incurred some cost after more than a decade of operating at no cost to the federal treasury. “But who’s to blame? Mexico. Because of what Mexico has done and because this market has collapsed, our farmers are struggling and our customers are doing great. That’s the simple mes-sage we need to send.” Though the ink is still drying on the 2014 farm bill, ASGA is already looking ahead to 2018. “You don’t start educating members of Congress a year out from the farm bill,” Markwart em-phasized. “This industry has the repu-tation of being the best of any Cleanup Sugarbeet Fields And Slow The Onset Of Glyphosate (Roundup ® ) Resistant Weeds In 2014 And Beyond. 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