I.B.A. chairman decries U.S.D.A. sugar actions

by Laurie Gorton
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WASHINGTON — Bakers deserve the same break in sugar prices that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently allowed ethanol producers — the ability to buy sugar at 6c per lb — said Ron Cardey, chairman of the Independent Bakers Association and chief executive officer of BelPastry, Inc., Omaha.

Mr. Cardey commented on a statement released by the U.S.D.A. acknowledging that government measures failed to erase a domestic oversupply. The agency spent about $61.7 million in June and July to prop up sugar prices with a mix of purchases and export credits. The department subsidized the sale of 7,100 tons at 6c per lb to ethanol refiners for the first time under the Feedstock Flexibility Program. Mr. Cardey said bakers also should be allowed to purchase sugar at that same price as long the government is “giving away sugar.”

Pricing of sugar and, particularly, government actions that distort the sugar market continue to trouble bakers.

“Americans are seeing the start of the federal government taking a path down a slippery slope with sugar,” Mr. Cardey said.

In another action involving sugar, the U.S.D.A. accepted 85,000 short tons of sugar as payment for $34.5 million in loans to sugar processors.

“It’s clear American taxpayers are directly supporting the U.S. sugar industry and should be very concerned that U.S.D.A. says there is a ‘substantial risk’ of additional forfeitures,” Mr. Cardey said. Approximately $306.7 million of sugar-beet and sugarcane loans are coming due at the end of this month, according to U.S.D.A. data.

Responding to such federal actions, the I.B.A. is composing an open letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack describing the difficulties the unpredictable government sugar program impose on the baking industry.

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