Kerry earns Peterson's support over sugar issue

By Carol Stender

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. -- John Kerry's campaign hopes it sweetened the pot to draw support from sugar producers.

Kerry, in a letter to 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, said he supports the sugar industry and is committed to scrapping the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Kerry also stated that new negotiations with sugar-producing countries should take place through the World Trade Organization.

Peterson had sought that commitment from Kerry for several weeks. Because of that, Peterson is campaigning for Kerry. Peterson made the announcement during a day-long campaign swing last week in western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota in sugar beet growing areas.


"The president has been unwilling to budge on this issue," said Peterson at a stop at the Mike Hasbargen farm near Breckenridge. "But I do have assurances now from Sen. Kerry and his campaign staff. That's the best chance we have to do away with the trade agreement."

Not everyone in the sugar industry is embracing Kerry.

Late last week a group of sugar beet producers "exposed" Kerry's record to "gut the sugar program" and questioned the presidential candidate's commitment to renegotiate CAFTA.

In a news release printed on Bush-Cheney letterhead, four Minnesota sugar beat producers denounced Kerry's announcement.

"Sugar beet producers in Minnesota cannot trust John Kerry when he says he will oppose CAFTA on behalf of Minnesota's sugar interests." said Wolverton-area producer Jay Nord. "Before he ran for president, Sen. John Kerry voted five times to gut the U.S. sugar program. This is not a sincere effort on his part to help sugar beet producers, but a cynical ploy to win votes in Minnesota."

Former Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative member Jack Lacey of Wendell agrees.

"Earlier this year when he was in East Grand Forks, Vice President Cheney pledged to work with the WTO on sugar agreements and we believe him because he and the president are men of their word," he said. "When John Kerry has discussed CAFTA in the past, it was not only because he wanted to consider the pact's 'labor and environmental' concerns -- not; to renegotiate sugar."

What To Read Next
Get Local