The American sugar industry: names to know

Major actors

The Fanjul: This Palm Beach, Florida-based family controls the world’s largest sugar refining operation. Led by politically connected brothers Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul and José “Pepe” Fanjul, the family grows and processes sugar cane on its 160,000 acres in Florida and additional land in the Dominican Republic. They control refineries in Baltimore, New York, California, Louisiana, Belize, Mexico, Portugal and Great Britain. The Cuban-born brothers are deeply involved in politics, with Alfy raising money for the Democrats and Pepe doing it for the Republicans. The brothers personally lobby lawmakers to protect the sugar program.

Kevin Award: The Washington lobbyist for Minnesota-based American Crystal Sugar, the major sugar beet processor, plays a big role in Washington’s sugar success. This is partly because its political action committee is the largest PAC donor in the agricultural sector. Price, a prominent legislative strategist, grew up in Minnesota’s Red River Valley and says sugar advocacy “is in the blood.”

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.): The liberal, adored by workers and influential among her fellow Democrats, has become an influential advocate among her colleagues for the sugar agenda. Domino’s Fanjul refinery in Baltimore is a major employer in Maryland.

Rep. Michael K. Conaway (R-Tex.): As chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Agricultural Commodities and Risk Management, Conaway oversees sugar policy. His strong support for government intervention in sugar carries weight with other Conservatives in the House who say they want to cut government and promote free markets.

Larry Combest: A former congressman and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Combest is now an influential advocate for the sugar industry. He runs a Texas-based lobbying and consulting firm that represents sugar and other commodity groups with his partner, the committee’s former deputy director of staff, Tom Sell.

Luther Markwart: The executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association has spent 31 years building the sugar lobby in Washington, including the well-known flyovers in which dozens of growers, mostly from the upper Midwest, visit Capitol Hill.

Jim Simon: Simon (pronounced see-MENA), is the general manager of the American Sugar Cane League, based in Louisiana. His familiarity with the South comes in handy when industry officials try to connect with Southern lawmakers.

Senator Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.): For years a critic of U.S. sugar policy and what he described as adverse effects on U.S. confectionery companies, Schumer this year voted against a measure to cut the sugar program. A major refinery owned by Fanjul is located in Yonkers, New York. Sugar lobbyists describe Schumer’s change of heart as an important step in their efforts to protect the program.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.): The 69-year-old Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and former chairman is known for his outspokenness, cowboy boots and piloting his own plane. He is a fierce defender of the sugar programme; he district of Minnesota has the highest concentration of beet growers in the country.

Kelly Erickson: As Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, Erickson leads a group known for its strong outreach to all sugar state congressmen. Like other beet growers, he makes the plot personal, describing several generations of his family’s sugar beet farm in Minnesota’s Red River Valley.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Rubio, a vocal advocate of the sugar agenda and potential 2016 presidential candidate, courted the Fanjul family during his 2010 Senate campaign. In his 2012 memoir, “An American Son,” Rubio credited a fundraiser to Fanjul on Labor Day weekend in 2009 for helping him surpass a critical early fundraising goal. This year, 60 supporters paying $10,000 each gathered on the patio of Pepe Fanjul’s Pam Beach house to toast Rubio.

Rachel J. Bradford