July 23, 1999
Panelists, any other questions or comments? Henry, thank
you very much. Next is Rick Dorn, President of the
American Sugar Beet Growers. And then after that, Sid
Schutter from the National Potato Board. And I want to
apologize if I'm mispronouncing that last name. Rick, go
MR. DORN: Thank you and good morning. I am Rick Dorn, a sugar beet grower from Hardin, Montana. As President of the American Sugar Beet Growers Association, I am representing over 11,000 farm families who raise 1.5 million acres of sugar beets in 12 states.
My board of directors summer meeting was held just last week, and I do not believe that there are adequate words to describe the many reports of how frustrated, depressed, and angry our farmers are in all of the growing areas. This is a result of a combination of inadequate domestic farm policy and the failure of our current trade policy to either address or respond to the current problems in the global marketplace. The uncertainty of farm and trade policy is having a devastating impact on two essential components of American agriculture and our rural economies.
First, the extended period of low commodity prices and uncertainty about the future are causing agricultural lenders to make it far more difficult to obtain adequate financing.
Second, many farmers are leaving the farm in order to protect whatever equity they have left. They simply cannot take on additional debt and manage the risk. In many cases, young farmers today are not being encouraged by their families to take over the family farm. This nation is quickly and silently losing its next generation of farmers. Farming is more than a business, it is an art, it is a science, and it is a craft that is passed on from one generation to the next. Our nation and its policy makers, specifically in the urban and suburban areas, had better wake up to the fact that by losing our young farmers, we are losing one of our most precious future resources.
You know that we are efficient producers, provide substantial access to our sugar market, are essential suppliers to the most sophisticated food system in the world that prices 32 percent below what the average consumer pays in other developed countries. And our nation's sugar and corn sweetener industries generate more than $26.2 billion in economic activity and create 420,000 jobs in 42 states. We have no risk management tools in the marketplace. Accumulative policies of our global competitors continue to create world dumped markets which no one can compete in. We must have an adequate price safety net for our farmers and trade policy that responds to those unfair trade practices because a healthy American sweetener industry means a healthy food manufacturing system. It's just that simple.
Here are our recommendations for the next round of negotiations to assure we get agreements we can live with.
Market access: Other countries must reduce tariffs to US levels and provide comparable access to their sugar markets before our access commitment is increased or our tariffs reduced. For our industry to support future agricultural negotiations under WTO, a traditional request/offer negotiating approach should be used. Experience has shown us that using a "formula" or "one size fits all" approach in trade negotiation is not acceptable.
Export subsidies: The most important issues to address are the elimination of direct and indirect export subsidies and state trading monopolies. Eliminating export subsidies and dumping practices should increase world prices and reduce the need to maintain high tariffs as a response to these predatory trade practices.
Internal supports: Our industry cannot survive a lower safety net. Our internal support commitments must remain aggregated and other countries must reduce their supports to the US levels to catch up the sacrifices our farmers have already made.
Countries must be in compliance with their Uruguay Round commitments.
Incentives must be offered to raise the level of labor and environmental standards in developing countries.
You must resolve the European non-tariff trade barriers to genetically enhance commodities and their by-products, like our sugar beet pulp, that are proven to be safe to consumers, livestock, and environment.
We would support an effort by USDA and USDR in your request to congress for additional staffing to assure that you have adequate personnel resources as you face negotiations in the next round of trade talks.
We welcome the opportunity to compete farmer to farmer. We cannot, however, compete against the treasuries of foreign governments or poorly negotiated trade agreements. We need good trade agreements so that all commodities that are produced efficiently in the US, like sugar, are allowed to compete fairly in legitimate world markets.
I thank you for the opportunity to express these concerns today and would be happy to answer any questions.