It’s Time to Modernize the Outdated Sugar Program

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We know that modernizing the sugar program this year will be a challenge, but this is a public policy fight to ensure a level playing field for the small, family-owned businesses and American manufacturing workers and their families who are bedrock to our economy.

The sugar program is the only commodity subsidy program that has not been modernized in the past 80 years. It forces manufacturers to pay twice as much for sugar as the rest of the world, putting American businesses at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to creating jobs.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, every sugar-processing job subsidized through artificially high U.S. sugar prices costs three American manufacturing jobs. The impact is so great the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the sugar program killed 123,000 jobs between 1997 and 2015.

The recent launch of the coalition Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy (AFSP) brought together a sizeable group of small businesses and manufacturers, retailers, food and beverage companies, trade associations, consumer groups, environmental advocates, taxpayer watchdog organizations, responsible government advocates, think tanks and other organizations, with the mission to advocate for modernization of the U.S. sugar program.

I am proud to serve as co-chair of this coalition that supports a simple, bipartisan solution to provide a spoonful of fairness to American food manufacturers that is modest in scope and doesn’t abolish the program or hurt farmers.

The Sugar Policy Modernization Act (H.R. 4265 / S. 2086) is that unique piece of legislation. It will create an adequate supply of sugar based on a reasonable competitive approach that reaches from the farm to the retail shelf – without risking an appropriate safety net for farmers.

The Orlando Sentinel recently editorialized in support of the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, calling it “a rare piece of legislation backed by consumer, business and environmental groups,” and saying:

“The U.S. sugar program originated as a temporary policy during the Great Depression. It outlived its usefulness decades ago. Reform of the program should be a slam-dunk priority for any Florida Republican lawmaker who believes in the free market, and any Democrat who opposes crony capitalism.”

The family farmer and the families who depend on manufacturing workers should be at the center of modernizing the sugar program. Our modest approach is the right policy to protect and create jobs for both the family farmer and American manufacturing workers.

In a new video series, found on FairSugarPolicy.org, workers and leaders from more than a dozen iconic American chocolate and candy companies highlight the ways the outdated U.S. sugar program is hurting their small businesses and impeding economic growth. These vignettes explore what the sugar program – which essentially doubles the cost of sugar for U.S.-based food companies – means for the future of small, family-owned businesses and manufacturers.

America’s chocolate and candy companies alone support 465,000 U.S. jobs. Passing sensible sugar reform legislation would mean that chocolate and candy makers in small towns across America like Lufkin, Texas and Oakdale, California could make further investments in their companies and hire more people to make the treats we all know and love.

It’s time for Congress to say yes to fairness, yes to competitiveness, and yes to protecting and creating American manufacturing jobs.