The United States is one of the largest importers of sugar, which is an essential ingredient in many of the foods we eat; it is used as a bulking agent, a sweetener and as a preservative. It's in our cereal and our canned ravioli. Because sugarbeets and sugar cane spoil shortly after they are harvested, production facilities must be nearby the fields and are run by the farmers themselves.
"That is what makes sugar very unique from any other commodity out there," Markwart says.
Sugar growers argue that unlike soybeans, wheat, corn, or other crops, sugar producers rely on a regulating their supply to keep sugar prices high enough to incentivize growing the costly crop.
If farmers stop growing, the impact on small communities where the sugar is grown would be devastating, farmers say.
"If the local people don't grow them, the factory closes," Markwart says.
Kelly Erickson, president of the Sugarbeet Growers of America, is vigilant about amendments like Lugar's that he says would threaten the livelihood of sugar growers in the United States.
"We are going to work hard to beat back these amendments," Erickson says.
An active farmer with 900 acres in Northern Minnesota, Erickson says the U.S. sugar program is vital to keeping the sugar production industry in the United States alive.
"It is a safety net for U.S. sugar producers," he says. "Sugar is heavily subsidized on the world market. We have to think of American farmers first."