Leaders at American Sugar Alliance symposium urge unity to protect Farm Bill

When agricultural opponents targeted U.S. sugar policy during July’s appropriations process, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) were among the groups that stepped up to defend sugar farmers.

The nation’s two largest farming organizations, which both have formal resolutions backing sugar, sent letters to lawmakers asking that sugar policy not be undermined and that the 2014 Farm Bill remain intact. Sugar producers today applauded both groups for their unwavering support at the American Sugar Alliance’s (ASA) 32nd International Sweetener Symposium, which ended on Wednesday.

“We strongly believe that all farmers will need to stick together in defense of the 2014 Farm Bill,” outgoing ASA Chairwoman Carolyn Cheney said. “We are thrilled so many groups stood by us when a handful of large food manufacturers attempted to gut no-cost sugar policy in favor of increasing dependence on subsidized foreign suppliers.”

In the face of such a furious defense – which also included letters from leaders in the banking, crop insurance, farmer cooperative, sorghum and cotton industries, among others – sugar opponents in the House and Senate withdrew committee-level amendments. But challenges still remain in future congressional budget and funding discussions, AFBF and NFU said.

“Unfortunately, there are groups from both the far left and far right that want to cut holes in farmers’ safety net, and they will use every opportunity to do so,” Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF director of public policy, said. “Such efforts threaten rural economies and imperil America’s ability to feed and clothe itself, so we must all continue to work together to mount a unified defense of the recently passed Farm Bill.”

NFU President Roger Johnson agreed that unity would be essential moving forward.

“Sure, the agricultural community will have differences from time to time, but we all agree that a strong farm policy is important, and we must fight any effort to unilaterally disarm and give heavily subsidized foreign competitors a leg up," Johnson said.

In addition to rallying support for the safety net, Johnson and Thatcher discussed other issues currently facing agriculture, including trade, food labeling and environmental regulations.

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