June 30th, 2005 - WASHINGTON D.C - Senator Coleman today joined a bipartisan majority in voting to pass 54-45 to pass the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). After working extensively with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) to reach an agreement with the White House to fully protect the U.S. sugar industry through the remainder of the 2002 Farm Bill, Coleman dropped his opposition to CAFTA-DR.
“This is a 3 year insurance policy that I have purchased for my sugar farmers, for my cooperatives, for this $2 billion industry in my state that creates about 40,000 good paying Minnesota jobs.” Coleman said on the Senate floor. “And beyond an insurance policy, through this agreement we make an important down payment on a very important part of the future of my sugar industry and that is ethanol.”
Under the agreement, any sugar imports above the current cap established under the Farm Bill – whether under CAFTA, NAFTA, or any other trade agreement – would be denied entry into the United States altogether unless an equivalent amount of sugar is converted into ethanol or other non-food uses, with at least 109,000 tons of that sugar being converted to ethanol under a pilot program run by USDA. In addition to the ethanol pilot program, the agreement also requires a study on the long term promise of a sugar-to-ethanol program.
“Without it, the Red River Valley has zero protection from NAFTA, zero protection from future trade agreements, and zero protection from CAFTA,” Coleman said. “Under NAFTA alone, some estimate that as much as 900,000 tons of dumped Mexican sugar could begin pouring over the border over the next couple years. Without this commitment, prices tank and U.S. sugar policy is in serious jeopardy. The worries that keep my farmers up at night carry on. But with this commitment, my farmers are fully protected through the life of the 2002 Farm Bill.”
Acknowledging he shares the industry’s disappointment in the lack of a permanent solution to limit imports, Coleman said that he has fought for more than two years on behalf of Minnesota sugar farmers and cooperatives to hold them harmless under CAFTA.
With the protections for sugar solidly in place, he noted that CAFTA will bring significant benefits for Minnesota’s other farm families as well including producers of beef, pork, soybeans, corn, dairy, wheat, and barley. Minnesota's manufacturing sector also strongly supports this agreement.
As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Coleman also underscored that the U.S. hopes CAFTA will promote economic growth and opportunity in Central America, as well in order to strengthen Democracies there and national security here at home.
Andrea Wuebker, (651) 645-0323