Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., was successful today in his bid to defeat an amendment to the Senate farm bill, which Enzi said would have been harmful to Wyoming sugar beet growers.
An amendment offered by Senator Gregg, R-N.H., would have phased out the U.S. sugar program by striking language in the farm bill that enables American sugar growers to compete with those in foreign countries.
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 71-29.
Included is a statement given by Enzi on the Senate floor today urging Senate colleagues to defeat the amendment.
Enzi has also been working to reduce a looming threat to U.S. sugar growers posed by a surplus of Mexican sugar.
Enzi met with senators from Mexico yesterday on this issue. Information on that meeting is also included below.
Statement on Sugar Policy
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi
December 12, 2001
Mr. Enzi: Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the Gregg amendment which would phase out the sugar program. The goal of U.S. sugar policy is for our producers to provide a consistent supply of inexpensive sugar to consumers. We've met that goal. Sugar is an important part of almost every food product. The U.S. sugar policy has provided food manufacturers with an unwavering supply of sugar without cost fluctuations. All consumers have benefitted from this steady supply. The U.S. sugar policy has allowed producers in Wyoming and other states to provide for the country's sugar needs without going out of business.
The senator from New Hampshire claims that the U.S. would be better served if we purchased our sugar from the world market. I will not deny that the prices for sugar on the world market are less expensive than the current U.S. sugar prices. I think it's important to note that the world market is a dump market. It's comprised of surplus sugar from subsidized countries. Countries like Mexico supply the world market. Mexico now has an average overproduction -- overproduction -- of 631,000 pounds. Even though 250,000 pounds of that surplus production is accepted into our market under the NAFTA side letter. The Mexican government recently bought and paid the debts on almost half of the sugar refineries in Mexico. If that isn't subsidization, I don't know what is.
Now, I met with folks from the Mexico Senate yesterday. They were up here in the United States. They wanted to talk about sugar. I had to remind them of the way that their excess overproduction is growing and if the world market opens up, it will grow even greater. I had to talk to them about this side letter so that the high-fructose corn syrup can go to Mexico and eliminate some of the overage that we have up here. I know for a fact that some of the people that served in this body at the time that NAFTA came up only voted for NAFTA on the basis of that side letter. That side letter is now not being recognized by the Mexican government. They're creating a crisis in America, a crisis in Wyoming. The sugar beet growers in Wyoming are working desperately to make their product work, to make sure there's this even supply.
Now, we shifted all of our energy supply overseas, not all of it but a great deal of it. You can see the crisis that it's causing for us in this country. Should we do that to sugar too, get rid of all our local producers then have those countries in the other parts of the world band together to control the price of sugar and make us pay through the nose for sugar? I don't think that's a very good idea. Our sugar producers in Wyoming are coming up with some alternate ways to make their production work better. One of the ways they're doing that is to buy the refineries. They're not asking the federal government to buy the refineries. They are buying the refineries. They're forming co-ops. They're putting their land up against the refinery. Why are they doing that? They get a little bit of profit off of the sugar, off of the production of the sugar. They'll get another little bit of profit off of the refining of the sugar. If they can put together enough of the different layers that are presently going to other people, they will be able to make a living off of the sugar, and produce that steady stream that I've been talking about.
Don't be fooled by the glut of sugar in the world market. The price may be low now but I guarantee you that would change if the U.S. accepted this amendment and began buying from the world market. The price for sugar in that market would rise. We would be left at the mercy of the world market because our growers would no longer be in business. In Wyoming alone, the main streets of at least four rural communities would become ghost towns. They would no longer be able to meet the needs of our own country. While sugar beets remain the number-one cash crop in Wyoming, the price farmers receive for their sugar is at a 20-year low. That shows the dire situation all agriculture producers are in this year. The companies that refine the sugar beets into sugar in Wyoming can no longer afford to remain open. So, as I mentioned, the farmers in my state and others have banded together to try and purchase those refineries. They are fighting to do everything they can to remain viable and competitive. This is not the hallmark of farmers waiting for the U.S. government to bail them out. They're fighting for their own future.
Mr. President, the Senate should defeat this amendment. We should continue to support sugar beet and sugar cane farmers just as we support all farmers that produce agricultural commodities in the United States. The sugar program's portion of the total net outlays for all commodity programs from 1996-2001 was only .19 percent. That's a small cost to maintain a steady supply of sugar to our consumers and our ability to provide for their needs and to provide for communities that rely on the sugar community. This becomes a domino effect. We've talked about the problem with airlines and how people rely on airlines. Well, if you're in a small community, one of these four small communities in Wyoming that rely on sugar beets, when that goes down, the whole economy goes. I don't care how well the airplanes are flying. They're not asking for the United States to buy the sugar refineries like the Mexican government has in Mexico. They're just asking for a fair chance to improve their economy and a little longer to develop these co-ops. I hope you'll stick with us on the sugar amendment.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Enzi not sweet on Mexican sugar policy
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., encouraged senators from Mexico yesterday to help end their country's heavy subsidization of its sugar industry, which would help remove a looming threat to U.S. sugar producers including those in Wyoming.
At a meeting yesterday in Enzi's Washington, D.C. office, Enzi explored the sugar issue with Mexican Senators Fidel Herrera Beltran, Gerardo Buganza Salmeron, Rodimiro Amaya Tellez and other government officials from Mexico.
"Mexico is propping up its sugar industry, creating a glut in production. When all barriers to trade with Mexico under NAFTA are removed in 2008, I don't want to see that oversupply dumped in the U.S. market then, further weakening the market for Wyoming sugar growers," said Enzi. "Mexican surplus sugar dumped on the U.S. market in 2008 would capsize both markets and severely harm Wyoming sugar producers."
Before NAFTA took affect, the U.S. negotiated a "sugar side letter" which put some restrictions on Mexico's access to the U.S. sugar market that would not exist solely under NAFTA. Mexico has challenged the validity of this letter and seeks to export all of its surplus sugar to the U.S. Under NAFTA Mexico has also raised tariffs on U.S. corn syrup, restricting the market for U.S. sugar.
Enzi was hopeful that some of the excess Mexican sugar could be used by the implementation of a sugar ethanol program there.
"That would relieve some of the problems with the sugar surplus, which will help our growers and lessen the threat of job losses at Mexican sugar mills and contribute to a cleaner environment," Enzi said.
Enzi said the Mexican senators were attentive and he hoped the meeting and others like it will lead the two countries toward a trade system that relies on an open market.