Confectionery industry heartened by close sugar program vote

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Senate Farm Bill sugar reform vote
The candy industry and sugar growers are both claiming at least a partial victory after the US Senate voted 50-46 to shelve an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would have repealed the current sugar program.

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a bipartisan bill in the Senate last January, co-sponsored by Mark Kirk (R-IL), which was intended to phase out the sugar support program, claiming sugar prices are artificially high and cost American jobs.

Despite the Senate’s rejection of the amendment, the Coalition for Sugar Reform – which represents the interests of sugar users, including confectioners – said the close vote was heartening. The last time the Senate voted on sugar reform, it voted 71-29 to keep the program.

“Although members of the Coalition for Sugar Reform are disappointed that the Senate voted today to table the Shaheen amendment by a 50-46 vote, we are encouraged that on a bipartisan basis, nearly half the Senate clearly sees the need to debate and reform current US sugar policy,”​ the coalition said in a statement.

 Meanwhile, the American Sugar Alliance, which represents the interests of sugar growers, welcomed the vote.

“Today's vote to reject an amendment that would have repealed US sugar policy is great news for taxpayers and grocery shoppers as well as the country's food security,”​ the alliance said.

“As many senators noted, the current system operates without taxpayer expense and US grocery shoppers enjoy prices that are well below the world average. Senators voting with sugar producers today should be applauded for their hard work and commitment to America's farm families."

Sugar producers have consistently argued that the current sugar policy is ‘no-cost’ and helps to safeguard domestic supply. They 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 Coalition for Sugar Reform said that it would continue to support an amendment to the bill that would “roll back some of the worst aspects of current sugar policy, without completely repealing the program.”

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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1 comment

No Free Markets in Sight

Posted by Michael Layon,

When I first learned of Shaheen's idea back in February, I called her office. Jeanne had used submission of the amendment to advertise her support for the sugar users. I merely asked about the bigger picture; that is why seek to remove a few limits from sugar production? Why not remove them all so that sugar in the United States is priced competitively with the rest of the world? When I suggested eliminating the subsidies for corn and related products such as ethanol subsidies and high fructose corn syrup subsidies the warm discussion turned sour. Senator Shaheen's office refused to acknowledge that sugar prices in the US are among the highest in the world and that we use more high fructose corn syrup as a replacement than any other country. We take an item (sugar) which is relatively abundant and inexpensive, and regulate it it so much that it becomes prohibitively expensive. We then go further by paying people to throw sugar away to "control" profit. At the same time we are throwing more money away to pay people to grow corn, others to turn corn into high fructose corn syrup and sell it at prices made artificially low. The current legislation is a baby step in the right direction and was rightly killed. Eliminate ALL the subsidies and we will be MUCH better off. Sugar prices could plummet within 6 months if the legislature would do one thing: end the trade embargo with Cuba. This country produces tons of sugar at very low prices and prior to the embargo is where we got most of our sugar. Add to inexpensive sugar and elimination of high fructose corn syrup subsidies and we would have more of an impact on obesity than any 'healthcare' law. I ought not to write more as Shaheen has a following which support her based on party rather than principle. Until that changes, nothing will change and that is exactly what we choose

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