It’s Good To Have Friends
Kevin Price, VP Government Affairs
Success in business can often be defined as stopping bad things from happening as much as making good things happen. Whether it’s preventive maintenance in a factory, proper application of fungicide to prevent disease, or smart budgeting, a little foresight can go a long way. Such is the case with our government affairs department this year.
The year after a farm bill becomes law should be a calmer time on Capitol Hill for those of us who care about farm policy. Congress should be focusing on all the other things that need to get done. But apparently the critics of farm policy don’t care what should or shouldn’t happen, they’re attacking agriculture – especially sugar – year in and year out.
This year that attack came in the form of amendments threatened to be offered to the annual agricultural appropriations bills in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In both bodies, amendments were written to gut sugar policy, leaving the U.S. sugar industry exposed to the dumped, foreign, subsidized sugar that plagues the world sugar market.
In anticipation of that the Washington sugar lobby has made sure it is on guard and that its friends are on guard as well. We know we can’t defeat our deep-pocketed opponents all by ourselves. We need friends on both sides of the political aisle, from all regions of the country, and from those on the Hill and off.
Two of our best friends are really good friends to have: the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. They’re the two largest farm organizations in the country and they span not just the political spectrum but all regions of the country as well. Recently, at the American Sugar Alliance annual meeting, representatives of these two organizations spoke to their relationship with sugar and the attacks we are facing on Capitol Hill.
“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,” said Mary Kay Thatcher, director of public policy with AFBF. “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,” he said, “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.”
Of course we don’t just rely on the AFBF and NFU to help our cause; we have lots of friends in the crop insurance industry, in other commodity organizations, and in the lending and larger agribusiness community. And of course we have our champions on Capitol Hill who do so much for us right on the front lines. But it really says a lot to Congress when the two biggest groups speak with the same voice, the voice for sugar. We deeply appreciate our friendship with the AFBF and NFU. They are great friends, and they’re helping us stop some bad stuff from happening.
In the end, our opponents chose not to offer the anti-sugar amendments because they counted votes and they knew they were going to lose. It won’t show up on any public vote tally, it didn’t result in any press release or newspaper article, but it was a success, and a big one at that.