Washington — For years, the chocolate and candy industry has wrestled with a U.S. sugar program that primarily benefits a handful of mega-billionaire sugar processors. Now, in an effort to modernize the program, candymakers are being joined by other businesses that include sugar as a main ingredient in their products, in calling on Congress to take action.
“Sugar prices in the United States are among the highest of any major market in the world because of special protections put in place by the federal government that date back to the Depression,” Gina Giallella, owner of a small bakery in New Jersey, wrote in the Moorestown Patch bulletin. “These outdated policies are artificially driving up sugar costs by restricting imports and putting taxpayers on the hook for unnecessary subsidies.”
NCA reports current policy forces U.S. manufacturers to pay twice as much for sugar than the rest of the world, putting into sharp focus the competitive disadvantage facing American companies because of the sugar program.
In an effort to achieve a level playing field, businesses that include sugar as an ingredient in their products are urging Congress to support the Sugar Policy Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 4265 / S. 2086), a modest reform that doesn’t abolish the current program or hurt farmers. The bill would eliminate government buybacks, and ensure that any loan taken out by sugar processors is repaid in full. It would also give the USDA the authority to better respond to ever-changing market demands, aligning the supply chain with free market principles. Through the modernized program, an adequate supply of sugar would be created, based on a reasonable competitive approach that reaches from the farm to the retail shelf, without risking an appropriate safety net for farmers.
“The Sugar Policy Modernization Act would reform the government’s sugar subsidy program, which costs food manufacturers and American consumers billions of dollars each year, while benefiting only a handful of wealthy sugar corporations,” wrote Tim Fogerty, CEO of Bissinger’s Handcrafted Chocolatier. “The U.S. sugar program keeps the price of domestic sugar artificially high, at nearly twice the global market level. This forces companies like mine to operate at higher costs, hindering our ability to compete, create jobs and grow our business.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the current subsidy program has already cost the U.S. 123,000 food manufacturing jobs from 1997-2015, while the American Enterprise Institute reports the program costs consumers up to $4 billion a year in hidden taxes.
“I encourage all our congressional representatives to . . . support the Sugar Policy Modernization Act,” Fogerty wrote. “It’s time to reform subsidy programs that only benefit a handful of wealthy and politically powerful sugar corporations at the expense of everyone else. It’s time to reform the U.S. sugar subsidy program.”
“As a local baker who purchases this inflated sugar for use in the wonderful treats we bake in our shop, I know we can do better, and lower the cost of sugar to businesses like mine so we can see savings,” Angel David Ortiz, owner of Noyes Bakery in California, wrote in his local newspaper. “Reform the sugar program so we stop subsidizing these sugar growers, and we start supporting small business jobs in our communities.”