Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., told those attending the 26th International Sweetener Symposium in Park City, Utah, that the farm safety net was not a problem in setting federal spending. The Chairman of the Budget Committee said the 2008 Farm Bill already included steep cuts for agriculture and he said agriculture is not the big problem. Instead he suggests the problem areas include Social Security, healthcare and inadequate revenue collection. Conrad said agriculture would be in good shape during future negotiations.
Conrad also said targeting sweetened soft drinks to help raise funds to pay for healthcare reform is now unlikely. The vast majority of soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar. Sugar producers oppose the proposed soda tax because, as the American Sugar Alliance put it, "Such a tax would penalize our colleagues in the corn farming business and wrongly demonizes sweetened products."
Also addressing the symposium was USDA Under Secretary Jim Miller who told sugar producers that he was not prepared to make an announcement concerning the Tariff Rate Quota program. The concern is that USDA might allow additional sugar imports into the market. Miller said USDA is still reviewing the situation.
Miller also discussed implementation of the 2008 Farm Bill, saying he feels very good about the recently implemented provision to provide sugar producers their first loan rate increase since 1985. In addition he says he was an advocate for the Farm Bill provision that will enable the USDA to turn unneeded surplus sugar into ethanol. This provision has not yet been implemented.