Sugar Users Call for Unified Efforts with Producers to Improve U.S. Policy
At last week's International Sweetener Colloquium in Hollywood, Florida, sugar users resolved to work more closely with sugar producers toward a more unified effort in making U.S. sugar policy more market-oriented. IDFA, a member of the Sweetener Users Association (SUA) and participant in the discussions, hailed the effort as potentially helpful to manufacturers of ice cream, yogurt and other sweetened dairy foods.
"The entire industry should begin to discuss how it can work together," said SUA President Randy Green. "The status quo does not work for us and will not work long for producers.
"As users, we need a stable, reliable, high-quality supply of sugar at competitive prices. Suppliers, in turn, rely on us to transform their commodity into a product with value to the ultimate consumer," Green noted.
The time is right for building consensus between sweetener users and producers, Green said, because pressures for change are mounting. He cited unrestricted sugar imports from Mexico in 2008; growing imports of sugar-containing products as a result of the U.S. sugar program; congressional projections that the sugar program will cost about $300 million a year in the future; and the probability that future trade agreements will create additional sugar import obligations, as U.S. negotiators bargain for more market access for export-oriented U.S. farm products.
Green said a sugar industry consensus would allow positive changes to be made as Congress writes the 2007 Farm Bill. To read the SUA press release, click here.
Programming at the Colloquium, which brought together more than 300 sugar processors, food manufacturers and sugar growers, further underlined the need for progress in U.S. sugar policy.
Keynoter Congressman Clay Shaw, chairman of the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee and a principal supporter of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), candidly spoke about the flaws of the U.S. sugar program, in which growers are guaranteed significantly higher prices than world prices for their sugar. He suggested that liberalizing the sugar program revamping prohibitive U.S. import tariffs and government price support programs was essential.
Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, vividly spoke about how the current political environment could affect sugar policy. Rothenberg's observations were further examined as experts from Congress and the White House discussed the federal budgetary pressures and domestic policy considerations that could impact any reform of the sugar program. Mike Sommers, special assistant to the president's National Economic Council, recommended that both sugar users and growers work together to rebuild an effective sugar program that deals with the concerns of all industry participants.
Colloquium panelists focused on the state of the world's major sugar industries and analyzed how free trade agreements with Mexico and other countries as well as the World Trade Organization Doha Development Agenda could affect U.S. sugar policy. Economists and policy analysts discussed sweetener global supply and demand, and outlined several options for new U.S. sugar programs. Former U.S. trade negotiators openly shared their views on U.S. sugar policy and warned that the current scheme of import restrictions is not viable in the future, given the number of free trade agreements that the U.S. continues to negotiate.
For additional information on the International Sweetener Colloquium, contact Helen Medina at (202) 220-3507.
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Posted February 13, 2006