USDA Deputy Secretary Highlights US Trade Policies and Progress at International Sweetener Colloquium

Aventura, Florida – Steve Censky, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, opened the International Sweetener Colloquium on Monday with a wide-ranging discussion on U.S. trade policy, domestic sugar production and the implementation timeline for the 2018 Farm Bill. The three-day event, co-sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the Sweetener Users Association (SUA), drew more than 500 people from 13 countries to Aventura, Florida, to hear the keynote speaker and other experts discuss issues of importance to sugar users and producers.

According to Censky, trade is extremely important to American food and agricultural industries because, on average, 20 percent of the food produced in the United States is exported. Recognizing opportunities for continued growth, administration officials have pushed for proactive agreements with key trading partners, including Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and the European Union.

Trade Agreements

Starting with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Censky said the pact was a big win for agriculture and the U.S. economy. The key objectives, he said, were to maintain duty-free access for American agricultural products and open access in Canada for dairy, poultry, eggs and wheat.

He acknowledged that it will take work to get the agreement passed in Congress and urged the attendees to help with advocacy and education. At the same time, USDA is advocating to remove the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum for Canada and Mexico, because the retaliatory tariffs in these countries are having a negative effect on U.S. exports, especially dairy and pork products. 

Turning to China, Censky said USDA officials participated in the recent trade talks with the Chinese delegation in Washington. “In ag, the key objective includes a robust purchase commitment from China and not just for soybeans,” he said. “A necessary part of any agreement with China is a good ag outcome.”

He added, “We need structural reforms on trade barriers. China is not fulfilling their commitment under tariff rate quotas, and the biotech approval process is a barrier. China needs to recognize U.S. beef and poultry as safe products.”

Regarding Japan, Censky hopes the negotiations will be quick and will provide an equal or better outcome than the United States would have achieved if it had stayed a partner in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Progress on a trade agreement with the EU is moving more slowly, he said, because the United States is insisting that agricultural products be included, and EU officials are pushing back.

Sugar Program

USDA plays a large role in managing the domestic sugar program, and Censky predicted that 2019-20 domestic sugar production will be up slightly as a result of increases in sugar beet production. Cane sugar production will be down slightly, he said, adding that “it’s a balancing act” to ensure an adequate supply for the domestic market.

The department is now focused on efforts to implement the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill and will announce an implementation timetable later this week.

In closing, Censky said, “The U.S. has the most productive farmers and ranchers and the most innovative food and ag industry in the world. We appreciate the longstanding working relationship with SUA and IDFA, and we want to hear from you on how we can be helpful at USDA.” 

Following the deputy secretary’s remarks, the attendees heard presentations on consumer trends, the domestic sugar market, the international sweetener outlook, the U.S. economic outlook, the future for ingredients and a framework for sustainability in sugar.

The sponsors for the International Sweetener Colloquium were ADM; Cargill; Domino Foods, Inc.; DTN; Evergreen Sweeteners; IFPC; Imperial Sugar Company; Ingredion; JSG Commodities; National Sugar Marketing; and Sugaright, a division of CSC Sugar.

The 2020 International Sweetener Colloquium will be held Feb 23-26 at the La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, Calif.

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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports nearly 3 million jobs that generate more than $161 billion in wages and has an overall economic impact of more than $628 billion. IDFA members range from multinational organizations to single-plant companies. Together they represent approximately 90 percent of the milk, cultured products, cheese, ice cream and frozen desserts produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. The diverse membership includes numerous food retailers, suppliers, cooperatives and companies that offer a wide variety of nutritional dairy products and dairy-derived ingredients. Visit IDFA at