Sugar Belt Chambers of Commerce supporting Louisiana cane farmers, national sugar policy

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

THIBODAUX - When the United States Chamber of Commerce turned its back on domestic sugar producers in the sugarcane producing states of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Hawaii and the Midwestern sugar beet states by advocating the end of the national sugar policy as outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill, Louisiana chambers in the Sugar Belt parishes decided to stand up for local farmers and the state's $3 billion dollar sugar industry.

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce became the latest Louisiana Chamber to unanimously support Louisiana's sugar industry by passing a resolution stating that, "The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce supports the continuation of the current U.S. sugar program and encourages Congress to work with Louisiana sugar producers to adopt a strong sugar policy in the 2012 Farm Bill."

Jim Simon, general manager for the American Sugar Cane League, applauded the Lafayette Chamber and all of the Sugar Belt chambers that have come out for Louisiana's sugar industry.

"Sugar is the most heavily subsidized commodity in the world, but the United States' sugar policy does not pay one penny to any sugarcane or sugar beet farmer in the country," Simon said. "Our farmers are among the most efficient sugarcane farmers in the world and would love to compete in a worldwide fair market.

In addition to Lafayette, the Iberia, St. Mary, River Region, St. Martin, Assumption, Vermilion, Opelousas-St. Landry, Chamber Southwest, Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge and Bunkie chambers of commerce have all supported their farming neighbors, area sugar mills and sugar refineries by passing resolutions in support of current national sugar policy.

Similar resolutions are before the Chambers of Pointe Coupee, Terrebonne, Lafourche, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension and Acadia and passage is expected soon, Simon said.

"Louisiana's sugar industry is worth more than $3 billion to the Louisiana economy," Simon said. "We've been producing sugar here for more than 218 years so it's very important to the state in general to have a strong American sugar policy."

Simon said that the Farm Bill is being debated in the lame duck Congressional session and is hopeful of passage before the end of the year.

The Senate passed a version of the Farm Bill this past summer that maintained sugar policy and the House Agriculture Committee endorsed that policy by a wide margin in the House version of the bill. The measure has not yet been voted on by the House.

"It's gratifying to know that our Louisiana sugarcane farmers, mills and refineries have the support of the Sugar Belt business community," Simon said. "It takes courage to go against the national chamber, but in this case it's the right thing for Louisiana business."