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Release No. 0301.05 Contact: USDA Press Office (202) 720-4623 - page 20 / 53





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MODERATOR:  The unintended consequences.  So a good comment there.  We go over here. MR. MARK OLSON:  Mr. Secretary, Congressmen, I am Mark Olson, a sugar beet farmer from Willmar, Minnesota.  I am also a shareholder and director of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative located in Renville.  The co-op is a major economic contributor to this region.  We agree with much of the sugar industry.  The sugar program has worked well for us in the past.  However, we do not agree that continuation of the current sugar program is necessarily that right path for the future. In our view, the time may have passed for a sugar program that restricts production and relies in the promises of trade protection to support prices.  Restrictions on production means no opportunity for growth, stagnation of innovation, and a downward spiral in farm income.  We relied on the Freedom to Farm policy of the 1990s and invested in one of the largest, most efficient sugar beet factories in the world.  The current program that restricts production takes a factory like ours and makes  it very ordinary and much less efficient. Promises of trade protection are an illusion.  We know that there will be continuing pressure for trade liberalization no matter which party is in office.  The current sugar program makes it impossible for us to support that position, putting ourselves at odds with the rest of agriculture. The U.S. market is being oversupplied with imports of sugar-containing products. By adding as little as one percent cocoa powder to these products, they are shipped to the U.S. under the ruse of not being sugar.  The amount of sugar now entering the United States in this manner displaces the production of six midsize sugar beet factories.

          The only way to address the resulting problems is in the WTO, not in bi-lateral trade agreements.  The sugar program used to work but is not likely to work in the future. We appreciate you coming to Minnesota. [Applause.] MODERATOR:  Thank you very much.  Yes, Mr. Secretary?  You knew you were coming in the lion’s den here. SEC. JOHANNS:  That's all right.  I just wanted to comment.  I thought those were enormously thoughtful comments.  And I just wanted to express to you, I appreciate that.  I was listening to every word, and I'll write down some notes here.  So thanks for being here. MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, and again this is not easy when you're an ag secretary to come out and be involved in these sessions. And I think it's a wonderful thing.  We need more of this.  So this is great. Over here?

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