Sugar reform advocates ‘disappointed’ with lack of policy debate

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Sugar reform advocates ‘disappointed’ with lack of policy debate

Related tags Food

Sugar users have said they are disappointed that both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees have voted to advance the 2012 Farm Bill without amending current sugar policy, which they claim costs the US food industry by inflating domestic sugar prices.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform, which represents consumer and trade associations, and major sugar using industries, claims that relatively higher prices for sugar in the United States also incentivize US food companies to relocate jobs overseas. Meanwhile, the American Sugar Alliance, which represents the interests of sugar growers, has welcomed the Senate Agriculture Committee’s decision to approve the 2012 Farm Bill with no change to sugar policy, saying it ensures that US agriculture can thrive.

The House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities & Risk Management finished two days of hearings on the bill last week with no mention of the sugar program.

In a written testimony, chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform, and president of the National Confectioners Association Larry Graham, said: “We are disappointed that the Agriculture Committee denied our request to testify at either of the commodity hearings…If Congress is truly concerned about jobs, why would it deny an open debate on a sugar program that is negatively impacting the interests of the 600,000 Americans employed by the sugar-using sector?”

Price stability

However, sugar growers claim that the current policy is ‘no-cost’ and ensures domestic supply. Sugar producers do not receive direct payments as a result of current sugar policy, but the government can restrict the amount of sugar that US sugar farmers can sell, restrict the amount that the US will buy to the level required by trade obligations, and divert excess sugar to ethanol production, in an effort to keep prices stable for US producers. The policy was set with the 1981 Farm Bill.

The American Sugar Alliance said in a statement: “We urge the full Senate to pass a new Farm Bill and also encourage the House to move a bill in a timely manner so that a new Farm Bill can be in place before the 2013 crop year. We are eager to work with lawmakers to ensure that the final bill includes a strong, no-cost sugar policy and doesn’t leave America dependent on foreign suppliers for such an important ingredient.”

In 2006, the US Department of Commerce was tasked with investigating whether food manufacturing and sugar refining jobs had been moved overseas as a result of US sugar policy. Its report concluded that “for each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high US sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost”.

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