U.S. Sugar CEO Robert H. Buker, Jr. Honored With Prestigious “Sugar Man of the Year” Award

Clewiston, FL – U.S. Sugar today announced that its CEO, Robert H. Buker, Jr., has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the national Dyer Memorial Award, “Sugar Man of the Year.” 

“Our country, our state and our local communities have all been enriched by Bob’s tireless commitment to defending American agriculture,” said U.S. Sugar Executive Vice President Ken McDuffie. “Over his 41 years of service for and with U.S. Sugar, Bob has established himself as a pillar of the American sugar industry and is so richly deserving of this prestigious award.”

This esteemed industry accolade highlights Buker’s outstanding achievements and long-standing leadership in the sugar industry. He stood out amongst a highly competitive field of nominees based on his tireless efforts to advance and protect the entire American sugar industry as well as his keen vision for the Company’s growth and diversification.  Those accomplishments have been well documented in both the media and in corporate reports over a career in agriculture that has spanned more than 41 years with U.S. Sugar (and five years previously as outside counsel).

With his 19 years at the helm, Buker is the longest-tenured CEO in Company’s history, and his accomplishments are unparalleled. Throughout his career, he led the robust expansion and modernization of U.S. Sugar through complete vertical integration, diversification into vegetables and geographic reach beyond Florida to other states and into Canada. All the while, he advocated vigorously for sugarcane and sugar beet farmers on the national stage and fended off unrelenting attacks on the industry from well-funded activists/extremists.

Buker also has played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. Sugar into the strong, sustainable, and resilient company it is today. In 2022, he guided the Company through its purchase of Imperial Sugar, the largest acquisition in the Company’s history. With an emphasis on safety, technology, expansion, environmental sustainability, and community service, he leaves the 92-year-old U.S. Sugar well positioned for its next century. 

Buker earned a degree in psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois and graduated with highest honors from the University of Florida School of Law. From 1973 to 1979, Buker served as an officer in the United States Army. He and his wife Barbara live in rural Glades County. 

This latest honor recognizing a lifetime achievement comes upon the heels of the recent announcement that Buker plans to retire effective October 27, 2023. 

“At 73 years old and after 41 years of working with and for U.S. Sugar, I am proud to say that I am leaving the Company with confidence knowing it is stronger, more resilient, has far better leadership, and is in an overall better position than when I began,” said Buker. “I am proud that I served with a Board of Directors with great values and vision, and with an amazing group of employees.”

Robert. H. Buker, Jr. is the latest recipient of the Dyer Memorial Award, which is named after B.W. Dyer, a 121-year-old brokerage company that specializes in sweeteners and other foods.  The award was established 1958 in memory of the company’s founder, B. Wheeler Dyer by his two sons, Daniel and Ben. Each year a panel of three distinguished judges selects a person who has made meritorious contribution to the U.S. sugar industry to receive this widely acclaimed honor.

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What industry/community leaders are saying:

Ridgway White, U.S. Sugar Chairman of the Board:  “Under Bob’s leadership, U.S. Sugar further solidified and expanded its position as a premier agricultural company.  He provided that same visionary and strategic leadership as American sugarcane and sugar beet farmers dealt with devastating global trade issues,  catastrophic weather events, changing politics and volatile market prices.  He is deserving of this honor.”  

Alan and Ardis Hammock, Frierson Farms:  “From our rural areas to Florida’s capital in Tallahassee to the nation’s capital in Washington D.C, Bob Buker has led our sugar industry to great things.  He always understood and stood up for the interests of small, independent sugarcane and sugar beet farmers like our 100+ year- old family Frierson Farms.  Whether it is standing up against activists in Florida or sugar users in DC or fake news in the media, Bob has been our champion and taken up the banner for American farmers.  Bob Buker has the strategic planning and leadership skills similar to the military greats throughout history, and our industry has benefited from these leadership skills.”

Tom Astrup, Chairman & CEO, United Sugar Producers & Refiners:  Through our one-of-a-kind beet and cane sugar marketing partnership, I have come to know Bob as a brilliant business strategist, fearless and compassionate leader, trusted business partner, friend, and confidant. I can think of no person who has had a greater positive impact on sugar production in the United States over the last 25+ years, than Bob Buker.” 

Pastor Rex Durham, Providence Church, Lehigh Acres, FL, “What I have found is that Bob Buker, by the grace of God, is a man of integrity, generosity, humility and loyalty. Those are qualities I believe the sugar industry needs to celebrate with this award, especially in a time when those qualities are becoming more and more rare. Time after time I have been privy to his generosity, the act of being kind by giving to others, as he has given in times of need to those who were struggling to pay the bills or put food on the table for their family. Bob is humble. He never seeks recognition for these things nor would he want it.”

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