Opinion: "No sugarcoating this giveaway"
With work on the 2012 Farm Bill under way, politicsians are taking a look at all of the crop insurance, subsidy and support programs the bill underwrites. In an opinion piece published Saturday, the Chicago Tribune argues lawmakers should end the sugar program.
Current policy is designed to protect domestic growers and processors of sugar beets and sugarcane by restricting imports and providing loans in order to maintain a minimum price for sugar. Growers in Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas produce sugarcane. Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana are among the largest sugar beet producing states in the country.
Defenders of sugar’s commodity price support program say that it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The Chicago Tribune, however, disputes that logic.
It's true... that the government pays no direct subsidies. But through its regulations, it imposes an estimated $3.5 billion a year in costs on shoppers and industry.
The Tribune argues that consumers pay a higher price for sugar because the industry is supported by the federal government. That means the price of sugar is artificially high.
The last time Congress revisited sugar, in the 2008 farm bill, it made the program even less responsive to the marketplace. As a result, U.S. food-makers not only pay an inflated price for sugar, they can't always get enough of it to keep their factories reliably supplied. No wonder Canada, for one, has experienced a boon as bakery, candy, frozen-food, breakfast-cereal and other food companies search outside the U.S. for this basic ingredient.
Will Congress end the Farm Bill's support for domestic sugar production. Only time will tell. But as lawmakers continue to draw up the 2012 bill, many of its programs will see increased scrutiny.
For more information, check out our Farm Bill coverage.