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Montana Ag Network: New farm bill good for sugar beet growers and consumers

BILLINGS- Like others in agriculture, the U.S. sugar industry was pleased to see Congress pass a new farm bill and President Trump sign it into law in late 2018.

The leader of the American Sugarbeet Grower Association says a strong farm bill is good for both sugar beet growers and consumers.

“This industry is absolutely critical to our country because sugar plays an important role in our food system and we want to make sure we have a strong domestic supply,” said Luther Markwart.

Markwart is the American Sugarbeet Growers Association’s executive vice president. And during the recent Malt Barley and Sugar Beet Symposium in Billings, he talked with growers about the new farm bill.

“Essentially it was an extension of what we had before with just a little increase in the loan rate. So, that will allow more money to flow to our farmers earlier but it’s not going to have an impact on consumer prices,” said Markwart.

“And the nice thing is it’s not going to cost the taxpayers any money. We’re projecting to have no cost to the sugar policy for the next 10 years,” he added.

He also talked about trade, especially with U.S. trading partner Mexico.

“Under the old NAFTA, we had unfettered free trade between the U.S. and Mexico in sugar,” said Markwart. “Back in 2012 and 2013, they subsidized and dumped sugar into our market costing the taxpayer almost $260 million and devasted U.S. producers to the tune of almost $2 billion,” Markwart said.

“We brought antidumping countervail cases which said Mexico is essentially cheating in our trade laws. The Trump Administration stepped in and fixed those things and that means good things for producers going forward.”

The trade suspension agreements with Mexico that Markwart mentioned have to be renewed every five years and that’s coming up in 2020.

-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News

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