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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sugar Program Proposals for the 2012 Farm Bill


Remy Jurenas
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

The sugar program is structured to operate at no cost to the federal government—an objective that has been achieved over the last decade primarily using two tools: marketing allotments that limit the amount that sugar processors can sell, and import quotas that restrict the quantity of foreign sugar allowed to enter the U.S. market. Since the program records no outlays, its future has not received attention among the proposals submitted to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees for revising the farm safety net and reducing farm program spending.

Producers of sugar beets and sugarcane, and the processors of these crops into sugar, favor retaining the current program without change. They highlight the jobs and economic activity created by the domestic sugar sector. Two general farm organizations and a coalition of some developing countries that benefit from selling against their shares of the U.S. sugar import quota also support continuing the current sugar program.

Food manufacturing firms that use sugar in their products advocate program elimination or a transition toward a free market in sugar in the United States. In support of these changes, they point to the higher wholesale refined sugar prices paid since the 2008 farm bill provisions took effect (twice the level compared to the previous 2002 farm bill period). Consumer, trade advocacy groups, and general business organizations that favor freer trade support their position.

The Senate Agriculture Committee’s reported farm bill (S. 3240) would reauthorize the current sugar and sugar-to-ethanol programs without any changes through crop year 2017. The American Sugar Alliance, representing sugar producers and processors, applauded the committee’s decision to continue the “no-cost” U.S. sugar policy. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, representing sugarusing food manufacturing firms and their allies, expressed disappointment that the committee extended what they call an “outdated and anticompetitive” program. The House Agriculture Committee plans to consider its version of a farm bill in late June.

Congressional opponents of current U.S. sugar policy have stated their intent to seek changes to the program in Senate floor action and House committee markup. Bills introduced to date and other possible proposals are likely to serve as the basis for amendments that could be offered. S. 25 would phase out sugar loan rates in stages through the 2014 crops, and eliminate all price support beginning in 2015. The text of this bill was offered as an amendment during Senate floor debate on June 13, and tabled (i.e., rejected) on a 50-46 vote. Other pending bills, S. 685/H.R. 1739; Title I, Subtitle C, of identical bills S. 1658/H.R. 3111; H.R. 1385; and Section 521(a) of identical bills H.R. 408/S. 178, would repeal all sugar price support provisions immediately or beginning with the 2013 crops.

All eight introduced bills would repeal all statutory authorities pertaining to sugar marketing quotas and allotments, payments made to processors to store sugar forfeited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), storage facility loans, and the feedstock flexibility program for bioenergy producers (i.e., the sugar-to-ethanol) program. However, they differ in changes proposed to the sugar import quota. S. 25, H.R. 1385, and Section 521(b) of H.R. 408/S. 178 would require that each year’s import quotas for raw cane sugar and refined sugars be set to ensure “an adequate supply of sugar at reasonable prices in the United States.” By contrast, S. 685/H.R. 1739 and the sugar program repeal provisions in S. 1658/H.R. 3111 would go further and completely eliminate all U.S. tariffs on sugar imports as well as the quota-setting authority administered by USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative.


Date of Report: June 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 8
Order Number: R42551
Price: $19.95

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs


Megan Stubbs
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs has grown in recent years. This growth can cause some confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance. The programs are as follows: 
  • Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program 
  • Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program 
  • Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) 
  • Conservation Operations (CO); Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) 
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 
  • CRP—Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) 
  • CRP—Farmable Wetlands Program 
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) 
  • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) 
  • Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program 
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) 
  • EQIP—Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) 
  • EQIP—Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) 
  • Farmland Protection Program (FPP) 
  • Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) 
  • Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) 
  • Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program 
  • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program 
  • Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations 
  • Watershed Rehabilitation Program 
  • Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) 
  • Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) 
This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. In each case, a brief program description is followed by information on major amendments in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246); national scope and availability; states with the greatest participation; the backlog of applications or other measures of continuing interest; program funding authority; FY2012 funding; FY2013 Administration budget request; statutory authority; the authorization expiration date; and a link to the program’s website.


Date of Report: May 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40763
Price: $29.95

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