Guest Essay by Paul Schlagel on the importance of a strong U.S. sugar policy

Paul Schlagel

Paul Schlagel grew up on his family’s farm in Longmont, where his family has produced sugarbeets in Colorado for over 100 years.

When you think of Colorado agriculture, cattle ranching might be the first thing to come to mind, but we’re home to a sweet industry as well: sugarbeets. As a fourth-generation sugarbeet farmer whose family has grown sugarbeets in Colorado for more than 100 years, I know just how important sugar production is to Colorado.

That’s why I recently joined more than 75 other sugarbeet and sugarcane farmers from across the country to meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and ask Congress to pass a farm bill that includes a strong U.S. sugar policy.

Every four years or so, Congress considers a farm bill that includes provisions that make up U.S. sugar policy. It’s designed to cost taxpayers nothing, but it provides sugar producers with critical loans and prevents subsidized foreign sugar from driving family farms like mine out of business.

It is more important than ever that we have the strongest safety net possible to sustain current production levels and maintain our national food security.

Across the nation, sugarbeet and sugarcane farms are facing economic pressures due to the significant increases in the costs of production. One recent study found that the costs of growing sugarbeets and sugarcane have “drastically increased” by more than 30% since the last farm bill.

Most every American has felt the effects of inflation — farmers are no different. On my farm, we’ve also invested in sustainability practices to save water, fuel, and retain carbon in our soil. This comes with costs, but we’re proud to help produce some of the safest and most sustainable sugar in the world to help feed our neighbors and supply food manufacturers across the country.

U.S. sugar policy helps U.S. farmers invest in sustainability efforts and increase productivity. We grow and produce sugar under some of the world’s highest labor and environmental standards. But eliminating or weakening U.S. sugar policy could leave Americans reliant on foreign sugar which might not adhere to those same high standards — and might not always arrive on time from overseas.

Sugar is also the world’s most distorted commodity market due to market manipulation from foreign governments. Our family farmers and sugar factory workers just cannot compete against unfair foreign subsidies.

The sugar industry plays a vital role in our economy — we are 11,000 family farmers who generate more than 151,000 jobs across over two dozen states and reliably deliver over 70% of the sugar consumed in the U.S. In Colorado alone, sugar generates $290 million in economic impact and supports more than 4,400 jobs. The sugarbeets grown on my farm are delivered to Western Sugar Cooperative, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Denver. Without a strong safety net, family farms like mine would be driven out of business and countless jobs would be eliminated.

Luckily, U.S. sugar policy is supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, including members of the Colorado delegation. It was an honor to visit members of Congress and their staffs in Washington and talk about how policies that keep the playing field fair for U.S. farmers help maintain our national food security.

After all, my family has been farming sugarbeets in Colorado for more than 100 years, and we can only hope to continue this legacy for another 100 years with the support of our congressional representatives and a strong U.S. sugar policy.

By: Paul Schlagel



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