Mike Grzadzielewski, Grafton, N.D., column: Crystal errs by putting sugar program at risk
By Mike Grzadzielewski GRAFTON, N.D. -- Normally I care little for what talk-show host Ed Schultz has to say. Normally, I would consider just pushing the button on my radio to tune in to his program as a terrible waste of my time and energy. But ...
By Mike Grzadzielewski
GRAFTON, N.D. -- Normally I care little for what talk-show host Ed Schultz has to say. Normally, I would consider just pushing the button on my radio to tune in to his program as a terrible waste of my time and energy.
But when it comes to the American Crystal Sugar situation, (I nearly choked on the following words) I believe Shultz may be seeing the situation more clearly than our American Crystal management.
As much as we sugar producers hate to admit it, the sugar program is "pure gift" for us and the Red River Valley as a whole. I know this sounds like a political heresy, because we in North Dakota tend to be conservative for the most part. We like to think that we can do it on our own; we don't want and we don't need any help from the government.
But let's ask ourselves, honestly: Who has benefited the most over the past several decades from this government program? If we all look in the mirror, I think we will have the answer to that question.
We all know the sugar program has been a tough sell in Congress for years; this is why our political action committee was formed. The PAC is one reason why the sugar program has survived.
Another reason is that the sugar industry has provided good-paying jobs to union workers and therefore was backed by powerful labor unions. But if we continue on our present path, we are all but certain to lose that support.
As I said, the sugar program for years has been a tough sell; and in the current political climate, I'm not sure it will survive, even with the backing of labor unions.
But the reality of the situation is this: The program's survival is more likely with the unions' support than without it.
We need to ask ourselves these questions. Do we really want to reduce the odds of the sugar program's survival? Was this approach to cost cutting at a time when we are getting record payment the prudent thing to do? How will the bad publicity affect our company in the future?
We all know the sugar program will be a tougher sell this time than it has ever been before. This issue should have been at the heart of the labor negotiations. Both sides should have faced this reality together, then come to one agreement based on the company's economics with the sugar program in place and another agreement based on the economics without the sugar program in place.
Then, together, we could have been focused on the real issue: the sugar program.
We need to do everything we can to ensure the survival of the sugar program and hence, the sugar industry.
In a sense, what we have done is put the cart before the horse. We have been looking for ways to cut costs -- let's be honest, that's what this is all about -- before we really know to what extent it will be necessary.
I have always been proud to be associated with this company. American Crystal Sugar Co. is a true success story, a shining example of a "value added" business enterprise.
American Crystal is a major driving force in the economy of the Red River Valley. It puts money in the pockets not only of the growers (and up until now, the union workers) but also of every merchant and real-estate agent in the area.
Vehicle sales, farm equipment sales, home sales, land sales, you name it: It was helped at least in part by monies generated through American Crystal Sugar operations.
Please, let's put this madness behind us. Let's focus on the real issue: the sugar program. Let's be honest with ourselves and each other.
We need each other. We can swim together or sink separately. I prefer the former.
<Grzadzielewski farms wheat, barley, sugar beets and other crops near Grafton.