Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

USDA tries new strategy to stem glut of sugar imports

WASHINGTON — U.S. sugarcane and sugar beet farmers are bracing for a flood — but not one caused by the weather. Rather, it's a flood of imported sugar from Mexico. Record production and imports are poised to sweeten the U.S. market a bit too much.

"This is a lot of sugar for our country to cope with," said Jack Roney, the director of economics and policy analysis at the American Sugar Alliance, an industry group of U.S. sugar producers. "Prices are dropping to levels not seen since the 1980s, and the USDA is trying to avoid the consequences of that catastrophe."

To deal with the glut, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken the unusual step of retiring sugar import credits and purchasing more than 100,000 tons of sugar, which allowed it to take 330,000 tons of surplus sugar off the market.

The plan, which cost $43.8 million, weaved through a maze of sugar policy, transferring purchased sugar from the Agriculture Department to refiners in an attempt to lower foreign imports. In return, refiners surrendered import credits that had been awarded to allow them to bring in sugar from overseas.

The Agriculture Department expects the plan to save it an estimated $66.9 million by avoiding loan forfeiture costs from its sugar loan program. But many surrounding the industry say the move doesn't make up for what they charge is outdated policy.

Brian Mabry, acting coordinator of the department's communications office, said officials had to take action among "atypical market conditions this crop year, including record yields and increased imports."

Mexico's recent sugar surplus is causing problems for the U.S. market because that country has unlimited access to the U.S. market, because of provisions that are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A June Agriculture Department report predicts that Mexico will export its record sugar surplus to the United States, shipping more than 1.9 million tons into an already-saturated market this year.

"It's really become one market only separated by the costs of moving product around," said Tom Earley, vice president of Agralytica, a Washington food and agriculture consultancy.

Sugar prices are nearing levels unseen since the 1980s. Prices have fallen to 16 cents per pound for raw sugar. U.S. prices peaked at an average of 38 cents per pound in 2011, after having fallen to 18 cents in 2000.

Protecting the domestic market from heavily subsidized foreign sugar producers — such as those in Mexico, where the government owns a 20 percent stake in the sector — is a priority for the American Sugar Alliance. "We have a U.S. sugar policy for one reason only, and that's foreign subsidization," said Phillip Hayes, the alliance's director of communications. But opposition to the safety nets enacted under the U.S. sugar program rose to new levels during this year's debate over a new five-year farm policy. Many confectioners and candy companies view the surplus plan as a patch for outdated policy.

"The fact that the current sugar program is forcing the USDA — and ultimately American taxpayers — to pay a $44 million down payment for excess sugar ahead of expected loan forfeitures later this summer underscores exactly why this program needs to be reformed," said Jennifer Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Coalition for Sugar Reform.

Comments
Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

Florida hospitals call for more funding in effort to address looming doctor shortage

The number of doctors practicing in Florida has not kept up with the state’s surging population growth, and more money is needed to recruit and keep them here, hospital leaders said Wednesday.The shortage is particularly acute in four speciality area...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Allegiant Air mechanics ask to be represented by Teamsters

Allegiant Air mechanics ask to be represented by Teamsters

Allegiant Air mechanics filed with the federal government Wednesday to be represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. If the petition is passed, the union would negotiate on behalf of the mechanics and related technicians on issues suc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is raising its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year, signaling its confidence that the U.S. economy remains on solid footing 8˝ years after the end of the Great Recession. The Fed is lifting its short-...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Business digestWho’s newsHOSPITAL APPOINTS ASSISTANT CHIEF NURSING OFFICER: Registered nurse Courtney Stephenson, board certified nurse executive advanced, was recently appointed assistant chief nursing officer at Medical Center of Trinity. Stephenso...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Hernando Vendors for Dec. 15

Vendors are needed for the following nonprofit events:• Vendors and volunteers are being sought for a National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at Crescent Community Clinic, 5244 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. During t...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

TAMPA — Holiday flight prices may be high, but parking rates at Tampa International Airport are a little more manageable. TIA has the fourth-cheapest parking rates in the country, a study by travel and expense app company TravelBank said. TIA, the st...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for Dec. 15

EventsDISCOUNT OFFERED TO THOSE WHO DONATE TO HELP HOMELESS: In advance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, BonWorth clothing store, 12987 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, will offer a 10 percent discount on purchases to those who donate unwanted c...
Published: 12/13/17
Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

NEW YORK — Target plans to boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt, its latest move to try to catch up with Amazon. Shipt delivers groceries to its members, who pay $99 a year. Target says it will add more products to...
Published: 12/13/17
Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines, the South Florida-based budget airline, is gearing up for new leadership. Bob Fornaro, president and CEO since January 2016, will step down from his position in early 2019. He will be succeeded by Ted Christie, the airline’s current ...
Published: 12/13/17
Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

WASHINGTON — On the day when Janet Yellen will hold her final news conference as Federal Reserve chair, the Fed has left little doubt what it plans to do Wednesday: Raise its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. The increase would be...
Published: 12/13/17