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Sugarbeet Growers Magazine March 2016 : Page 4

ASGA Meeting Highlights N early 400 growers, spouses and af-filiated industry personnel gath-ered in Scottsdale, Ariz., on February 7-9 for the American Sugarbeet Grow-ers Association’s 2016 annual meeting. On these pages, we provide photos and message highlights from several invited speaker presentations, as well as a summary of comments (page 10) by Galen Lee, Idaho grower and incom-ing ASGA president. We also carry a tribute (page 11) to outgoing president John Snyder of Wyoming. The next ASGA annual meeting will be held on January 29-31, 2017, in Miami, Fla. Other 2016 ASGA officers are Vice President Richard Gerstenberger of Michigan and Treasurer Patrick Freese of Minnesota. Chairmen and vice chairmen, respectively, of this year’s ASGA committees are: • Finance — Patrick Freese (Minnesota) & Lamar Isaak (Idaho) • Legislative — Dan Younggren (Minnesota) & Shane Strecker (Montana) • Political Action — Randall Grant (Idaho) & David Thompson (Minnesota) • Bylaws — Kendall Busch (Nebraska) & Dennis Klosterman (North Dakota) • International Affairs — Paul Rutherford (Minnesota) & Curt Ruther-ford (California) • Public Relations — Ervin Schlem-mer (Montana) & Charlie Bauer (Michigan) • Meetings — Dave Schwerin (Minnesota) & Steve Pust (Montana) • Biotech & Research — Richard Gerstenberger (Michigan) & Paul Schlagel (Colorado). v Jim Wiesemeyer , senior vice pres-ident with Informa Economics and the dean of Washington ag journalists, has spoken at several ASGA annual meet-ings. He did so again in 2016 — and, as always, kept the audience’s close at-tention with his insider’s perspec-tive on D.C. poli-tics, the economy, trade policy — and sugar’s fare specifically. “Your group in Washington continues to be the best,” he told the assembled growers. “They know if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re going to be part of the menu.” Among the biggest issues on the table this year, Wiesemeyer affirmed, are GMOs and food labeling. “You (sugar) are a litmus test here,” he stated, adding that the Vermont label-ing law, passed in 2014 and scheduled to go into effect this coming July, has huge implications for sugar. Commodity market realignments are still underway in the uneasy global marketplace, Wiesemeyer noted. “If you grow any major crop in the U.S., it’s ‘hunker down’ time,” he said. “These are cycles. You go through them. This is why you need leaders.” Geri Edens , legal counsel with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Baker Hostetler, spoke on “Understanding and Solving the Biotech Labeling Is-sues.” She referred to a 2014 Pew Re-search Center survey indicating that of U.S. adults sur-veyed, more than half (57%) said it’s generally un-safe to eat genet-ically modified foods, with 37% saying they be-lieved it was safe. But of AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) scientists asked the same question, 88% said eating genetically modified foods was generally safe, with just 11% saying it was unsafe. Edens outlined recent ballot initia-tives focused on the labeling of geneti-cally modified foods, making special note of ones that have passed in Ver-mont (2014), Maine (2014) and Con-necticut (2013). Edens also told the ASGA audience they could expect ef-forts to pass GMO labeling bills in sev-eral additional states this year. What does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have to say about GMO labeling? In 2015, she reported, the FDA denied a petition from the Center for Food Safety to require GMO label-ing. The FDA stated that “consumer interest alone is not enough to compel food labeling.” It must, the agency said, be based on “objective characteris-tics” of food, not the method by which it was produced. Edens discussed the path forward, noting that the next several weeks will be extremely important in what has been a very fluid situation. Discus-sions with Congress are ongoing, she noted, with opponents of state labeling laws pointing out the problems with a patchwork of state laws. Legislation has been introduced to pre-empt the Vermont law in favor of a uniform na-tional policy. “It will come down to whether there are enough votes in the Senate,” she stated. 4 THE SUGARBEET GROWER March 2016 ASGA Meeting Photos by  Don Lilleboe

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