March 10, 2005

Delegation Seeks Protection For Sugar In Trade Negotiations

Idaho Senators and Representatives pursue multi-faceted approach in advocating the interests of Idaho sugar producers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Idaho's Congressional Delegation is engaged in an aggressive attempt to seek protections for Idaho sugar producers in upcoming trade negotiations. Through a variety of letters and meetings, Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. "Butch" Otter are asking Bush Administration officials to ensure U.S. sugar producers do not face a flood of imported sugar at prices well below the cost of production.Senator Larry Craig, who recently wrote the President expressing his strong concern and opposition to the inclusion of sugar tariffs and tariff rate quotas in bilateral and regional trade agreements said, "The cumulative import potential of the sugar-exporting Free Trade Agreement candidates is estimated at 27 million metric tons -- three times our domestic consumption. If our sugar market is further opened to these levels of imports, the United States sugar program cannot be sustained and the domestic industry will certainly collapse. Such a result is unacceptable to me and to the industry, which is a vital economic engine for jobs and families in Idaho.""When one of Idaho's agriculture sectors is affected, it ripples into other commodities and Idaho's economy as a whole," said Senator Mike Crapo. "As the Administration continues to negotiate trade agreements, it is vital to ensure that our trade negotiators are responsive to our growers' concerns. In order to ensure the success of Idaho agriculture, we must be expanding market opportunities but not at the cost of one of our vital industries. I will continue to work to ensure that Idaho's sugar industry and our economy is protected."Idaho Representatives Mike Simpson and C.L. "Butch" Otter met jointly this week with the United States Trade Representative's Chief Agricultural Negotiator Allen Johnson to discuss the importance of the sugar industry to Idaho and their concern over the Administration's ongoing negotiations on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). "Rep. Otter and I made it clear to Ambassador Johnson that the Central American nation's pose a grave threat to the U.S. sugar industry if given unfettered access to the U.S. market," said Congressman Simpson. "The sugar industry, its producers, and Amalgamated Sugar Company are too important to Idaho to be sacrificed on the altar of free trade. I look forward to continuing my work with the Idaho Delegation and the Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association to ensure their concerns are addressed."The Idaho lawmakers also joined 19 House colleagues from sugar-producing states in a letter urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick to exempt sugar from talks on any new regional or bilateral free trade agreements."I want to believe our government won't allow America's cost-efficient sugar industry to be undermined by heavily subsidized foreign imports," said Congressman Otter, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. "Free trade only works when it goes both ways. I'm committed to breaking down barriers to trade, but not unilaterally. That only leaves us open to international predators, and I won't stand idly by while our sugar producers are victimized." ###