Marco Rubio, Rick Scott join bipartisan letter pushing USDA not to ‘weaken U.S. sugar policy’

scott rubio
'The U.S. sugar market is adequately supplied.'

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are part of a bipartisan group of 12 Senators asking President Joe Biden’s administration not to push policies that could “weaken” America’s sugar farming industry.

The letter, led by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) not to adopt policies that could allow more sugar to be imported into the United States, thereby diluting the U.S. sugar market.

“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) own measures, today, the U.S. sugar market is adequately supplied,” the Senators wrote in the letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

“The latest USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) projects the current sugar stocks-to-use ratio at 14.4%. USDA has determined that a stocks-to-use ratio of at least 13.5% is adequate to supply the U.S. market. This figure suggests that more than 1.8 million tons of sugar stocks are on hand leading into the fall sugarcane and sugarbeet harvest season.”

That is, there is plenty of sugar still available to cover existing market demands, the Senators argue.

Both Republicans and Democrats signed the letter. In addition to U.S. Sens. Hoeven, Rubio and Scott; Republican U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho were also signatories. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan signed the letter as well.

The bipartisan group pointed to the sugar industry’s efforts in keeping the nation supplied during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the industry’s overall economic benefits, in arguing against a potential shift in policy.

“As Senators representing sugar-producing states, we write to express our strong support for U.S. sugar policy. Americans benefit every day from the lowest-cost, highest-quality food supply in the world, enabled, in part, by the certainty and stability of our domestic sugar industry. Accordingly, we ask that you reject proposals that would weaken U.S. sugar policy and jeopardize our nation’s food security,” the Senators wrote.

“The sugar supply chain in America is incredibly resilient, as evidenced by the sector’s ability to maintain delivery of American-made sugar to store shelves and to food manufacturing companies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. At zero cost to taxpayers, domestic sugar policy supports more than 151,000 American jobs in more than two dozen states, and through a network of strategically placed distribution centers, ensures consumers a reliable supply of high-quality, responsibly produced sugar at a reasonable price.”

That latter statistic is a reference to a study from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University which found the sugar industry supports 37,000 direct jobs and more than 151,000 jobs overall when counting downstream activity.

That research also showed the industry directly contributes $8.2 billion to the U.S. economy, a number that increases to nearly $23.3 billion when considering indirect and induced effects.

The USDA is attempting to deal with rising food prices thanks to inflation. But the Senators argue further saturating the sugar market is not the right approach.

“Since the 1980s, wholesale and retail prices for refined sugar have been stable and falling when accounting for inflation. Today’s prices remain comparable with those in other developed countries. Of course, supply chain bottlenecks have partially contributed to the rising cost of food in our country. These supply chain obstacles have driven up the cost of food production and transportation as well,” the Senators wrote.

“Rising input costs, especially for fertilizer and diesel fuel, along with a labor shortage in the transportation industry, have significantly increased the cost of production for our sugar growers. Despite these current challenges, thanks to U.S. sugar policy, our sugar supply chain remains resilient and in a strong position to address future challenges.

“It is imperative that USDA not make changes that would create a glut in the U.S. market and collapse prices below grower costs of production, which would violate the spirit of U.S. sugar policy and ultimately drive family farmers out of business.”

Ardis Hammock, owner and operator of Frierson Farms in Moore Haven, joined a letter from several sugarcane and sugarbeet growers thanking the Senators for their advocacy on the issue.

“We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Hoeven, Chairwoman Stabenow, and their colleagues, in standing up for farmers and our food security,” the farmers said.

“We are proud to grow America’s sugar crops and play an essential role in maintaining a robust Made-in-America food supply. After a challenging year on many of our farms, we can head into harvest confident in knowing that U.S. sugar policy has strong bipartisan support.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].

One comment

  • PeterH

    September 14, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    No easy remedy to Gulf pollution. Throw 2.5 million unregulated leaking septic tanks into the mix and you get the picture. At least Rubio and Scott get campaign funds from the sugar industry.

Comments are closed.


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