“Mr. President, I rise today in opposition to S. 1307, the bill to implement the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.
“CAFTA will greatly harm
“CAFTA is a raw deal for the
“This agreement would allow an additional 122,000 tons of imported sugar into the
“Even with our existing program of import controls, the
“When Jesuit priests introduced sugarcane to
“The Louisiana Farm Bureau estimates that CAFTA would have cause a $8.5 million reduction in
“The Administration made a last-ditch, three-part proposal to the sugar industry to mitigate CAFTA’s impact, but it is untenable. First, they will commit to “hold harmless” the sugar program through the reauthorization of the 2002 Farm Bill. This is something that I could and will support, but it is my understanding that this is already the responsibility of the Secretary of Agriculture under the Farm Bill’s instruction to operate the program at no net cost and its import trigger. I know that sugarcane farmers in my state appreciate the Secretary's commitment to provide short-term relief from the flood sugar import commitments. However, this temporary protection does not help them avoid the flood. We in
“The second component of the deal is the most problematic. If imports threaten to exceed the 1.523 million ton trigger in the Farm Bill, USDA would commit to compensating foreign producers for not selling their sugar within our market. USDA would also establish a pilot program to divert imported sugar into ethanol use, up to the amount coming in under CAFTA. The prospect of paying foreign producers is troublesome. Regardless of the Secretary's statement that he has the authority to implement such a program, there are too many unanswered questions on how this would work.
“Do we really want to make cash payments to foreign governments or private foreign corporations in return for a commitment not to export sugar to our market? I think not! Sending our tax dollars to our foreign competition would be an untenable position for a variety of budgetary and policy reasons, making this long-term solution all the more difficult to accept.
“The ethanol diversion program has its own uncertainties on how it will work, and it seems to signal a desire to purchase foreign sugar for possible ethanol use instead of assisting the domestic industry in developing new markets for our own production—and likely spend significantly more of the taxpayer’s money in the process.
“Finally, there is a proposal for a feasibility study on converting sugar into ethanol, to be submitted to Congress no later than July 1, 2006. Well, we already know sugar can be turned into ethanol, because they are doing it in other countries. Worldwide, more ethanol is produced from sucrose than from corn. We now need to jumpstart our own efforts and implement a program here to provide sugar access to the national renewable fuels program.
“The Energy Bill we passed this week provides for eight billion gallons per year of renewable fuels, most of which will be ethanol. The new renewable fuels program would amount to more than quadruple the ethanol currently being consumed in the
“Access to ethanol was the crux of the sugar industry's proposal to deal with CAFTA—not a study, but real access to the program. They asked for a short term increase in the tax credit during the developmental phase of this program, something that I understand was done for the beginning for the program for corn. With so much uncertainty facing the industry because of NAFTA, CAFTA, and other trade negotiations already in progress, I think this was a fair ask from an efficient domestic industry that has been a robust economic engine for my state for over two centuries. I wish the Administration could have accepted the industry’s ethanol jumpstart proposal instead of proposing merely a two-year, completely uncertain solution.
“While I served in the House of Representative, I supported and voted for a variety of trade agreements because I sincerely believe that increased trade, when achieved through level playing fields, helps grow the economy and create jobs here in
“Contrary to what some will say about the sugar industry, they do not believe the solution for the industry is protectionism.
“Despite disastrous production during the Civil War, a disease epidemic during the 1920s, and freezing temperatures in the 1990s, the
“Our sugar farmers and processors work hard and deserve a level playing field to do their jobs and support their families. A CAFTA without distortions to our sugar market—and a concerted effort to address sugar at the WTO—would provide a truly global forum that could alleviate the trade distortions in the world sugar market. And, dealing with sugar trade globally and fairly would help ensure a strong sugar industry in
“In closing, I want to take this opportunity to thank Chairman Chambliss and Senator Coleman for their efforts to find a solution to the sugar problem with CAFTA. They have been leading a bicameral effort and working diligently to find a workable solution to the sugar issues with CAFTA. While I do not agree with the outcome of those negotiations, I applaud their efforts.
“Unfortunately, in the end these efforts have failed to produce a workable solution for our vital sugar industry, and, therefore, I remain strongly opposed to CAFTA. I ask all my colleagues to oppose S. 1307.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”