A recent New York Times article, “Catfish With a Side of Scombroid,” informed readers that: “…the salmonella frequently detected in Asia-farmed fish came from fecal bacteria in the grow-out ponds. The fish, in other words, were bathing in human and animal feces.”
Given the influx of negative newspaper headlines like this, it’s no surprise that a recent Harris Interactive poll found nearly nine out of 10 Americans (88%) think it is important for the United States to be able to produce food domestically instead of relying on imports.
In fact, when asked specifically about sugar, 75% said they prefer homegrown sugar to imports, even if foreign sugar were cheaper.
America’s sugar producers hope lawmakers take notice of these results when the House considers the 2007 farm bill. In particular, they hope legislators vote against amendments that could weaken farm policies and jeopardize the country’s ability to produce enough food.
Two lawmakers are spearheading a charge to cut holes in the farm safety net, including an elimination of U.S. sugar policy. Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and a handful of conservative and liberal activists have led the effort to raid farm policy to further their own agendas.
But this movement appears to be losing steam.
“As the facts come out, lawmakers are realizing that the Kind-Flake farm scheme is about destruction, not reform,” said Jessie Breaux, a Louisiana sugarcane farmer and president of the American Sugar Cane League. “Gutting this country’s sugar policy would bankrupt America’s sugar farmers and threaten America’s food security.”
America got a glimpse of what life would be like without Breaux and other U.S. sugar producers following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
America was forced to import significant quantities of refined sugar for the first time. Sugar brought in from Mexico was inedible and had to be re-refined by U.S. sugar companies to remove metal shavings, hunks of burlap sacks, and other debris.
Sugar producers insist that without a strong sugar policy, this isolated incident could become the norm as efficient U.S. sugar producers would be forced out of business-taking with them 146,000 U.S. jobs and $10 billion in annual economic impact in 19 states.
“Sugar producers have turned our attention to defeating Kind-Flake or any amendments that would seek to weaken U.S. sugar policy.” said Steve Williams, a farmer from Fisher, Minn. and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. “The current program has worked well for taxpayers, consumers, farmers, and this country’s food security-it should be strengthened, not weakened.”
Williams and his colleagues are urging Congress to support the farm bill that was approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week, HR 2419.
To view the Harris International poll (pdf), use this link.