The prospects for U.S. sugar policy under a new Farm Bill and opportunities offered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership were just a few of the topics covered at this year's International Sweetener Colloquium, February 10-13, at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, Fla. The event drew more than 420 industry professionals, maintaining the high level of attendance reached in recent years.
Hosted by IDFA and the Sweetener Users Association (SUA), the colloquium addressed the sweetener industry's latest challenges, obstacles and opportunities with presentations from a wide range of speakers. At the SUA board meeting held in conjunction with the event, the directors re-elected Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, as SUA treasurer. Hough has held this position for the past five years.
Keynote Calls for New Farm Bill
Michael Scuse, under secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, made his second consecutive appearance to kick off the program with the keynote address. He urged Congress to enact a new five-year Farm Bill and acknowledged calls from sugar-using industries to modify the U.S. sugar program, which falls to USDA under the Farm Bill. Scuse and his department are responsible for implementing provisions of the federal sugar program.
The sugar-using industries, including dairy, oppose the current U.S. sugar program because it constricts needed sugar imports, leading to tight supplies in the U.S. domestic sugar market and higher costs for processors and consumers. Consequently, U.S. food manufacturers must rely on USDA to increase sugar imports to provide adequate supplies at reasonable prices.
IDFA and representatives from other sweetener-using industries applauded the under secretary's commitment to ensure that U.S. sugar policy balances the needs of both sugar producers and sugar users. IDFA and SUA believe Congress has a critical opportunity this year to reform the outdated sugar program to achieve greater balance, provide USDA with more flexibility to administer the program based on market needs and ensure that the program works for all stakeholders.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership was another topic that garnered significant interest. Panelists from Australia, Canada and Mexico – all participating countries – discussed the status of negotiations and the impact of the agreement on markets and future trade policy.
"Increasing market access to sugar through the TPP would grow U.S. exports, support job creation and help ensure that other commodities, of which the United States is a net exporter, benefit from reduced tariff and non-tariff barrier to trade," said Rick Pasco, president of SUA and the panel moderator.
Other topics covered include international energy and ethanol, sustainability, food safety, ingredients, the regulatory environment and the outlook for U.S. and international sweetener markets.
"Today's complex global marketplace and economic environment present sweetener-using industries, such as dairy, with a variety of challenges, as well as opportunities," said Hough. "This annual gathering provides a critical forum for all sweetener stakeholders, and we're certain that trend will continue."
2013 Sugar Reform Act
Also this month, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation, known as the 2013 Sugar Reform Act, to seek changes to the U.S. sugar program. The legislation aims to repeal trade restrictions that limit additional sugar imports, repeal the program that channels sugar supply to ethanol production and reform domestic supply restrictions.
The Coalition for Sugar Reform, of which IDFA is a member, welcomed the legislation, saying it would eliminate restrictive and market-distorting provisions and provide relief to consumers and businesses. Read more here.
IDFA, SUA Thank Sponsors
IDFA would like to thank the 12 companies that sponsored events and activities during the International Sweetener Colloquium. They are: ADM Sweeteners and Cocoa; Blackhive; CSC Sugar; Domino Foods, Inc.; Evergreen Sweeteners; Ice Futures; Imperial Sugar; Industrial Commodities; Ingredion; International Food Products; Jenkins Sugar Group; and Sweetener Supply Corporation. More information about these companies is available here.
The 2014 International Sweetener Colloquium will be held February 23-26 at The St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif. For more information, contact Maria Velasco, IDFA meetings assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.