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About the U.S. Sugar Program

The United States sugar policy is housed within the farm bill, legislation passed every five years that determines U.S. agricultural and food policy. The farm bill affects everyone who grows, processes, sells, buys and eats food.

The Administration is obliged to set legal limits on the amount of sugar that domestic processors are permitted to sell, and to establish strict limits on imports (tariff rate quotas), as mandated in law. However, Congress should seek the quickest possible reform of sugar policy – and in the meantime USDA should use the flexibility it does have under the law to administer the program in a manner that does the least harm. Current sugar policy:

  • Has eliminated more than 14,000 confectionery jobs and more than 75,000 food manufacturing jobs from our economy over the last 10 years by encouraging food facilities to move offshore to take advantage of cheaper world-priced sugar; and
  • Raises consumer costs by restricting domestic output and limiting access to competitive supplies from developing countries. It has been estimated that these policies costs consumers approximately $4 billion per year. 

In response to tight market conditions, USDA announced on April 19, 2012, an increase to the tariff rate quota of 420,000 metric tons. This step was necessary and very much appreciated, but NCA along with the Coalition for Sugar Reform believe an increase of 1 million tons is necessary to provide an adequate supply for the marketplace and to avoid any supply disruptions.

Operating the sugar program in a manner that drives up prices by restricting total supplies sacrifices the interests of consumers, small businesses and workers in sugar-using industries. Proponents of the current program aim their attacks at the confectionery industry, but the sugar program affects more than just candy. The Administration should not elevate the agenda of large sugar sellers above the needs of small bakeries, ice-cream makers, and confectioners who rely on sugar supplies to make their products, meet their payroll and maintain jobs.

The 113th Congress passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, a five-year farm bill, that extends the current U.S. sugar program. NCA and the Coalition for Sugar Reform will continue to educate Congress on the harmful and detrimental effects of this subsidy program on the American economy, job market and taxpayers.