WASHINGTON — Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire on Jan. 25 introduced the SUGAR (Stop Unfair Giveaway and Restrictions) Act, a bipartisan bill that would phase out the sugar support program and presumably save consumers billions of dollars. The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.
“The sugar support program costs consumers $4 billion a year to disproportionally benefit a limited group of wealthy sugar producers,” Ms. Shaheen said. “The SUGAR Act protects consumers, saves American jobs, and allows U.S. confectioners, bakers, beverage companies, and food manufacturers to stay in business. We must stop sugar’s sweet deal.”
Ms. Shaheen noted that no other U.S. crop is subject to the restrictions sugarcane and sugar beets are, adding that price supports are “an unnecessary market intervention that have no place in our 21st century economy.”
The National Confectioners Association issued its support for the bill.
“The current sugar program artificially limits the supply of sugar in the United States, causing tremendous and sometimes irreversible harm to U.S. candy makers, especially smaller candy companies,” said Larry Graham, president of the trade association and chairman of the Sugar Policy Alliance, an organization of consumer groups and food manufacturers that works for sugar policy reform. “Due to the high cost of sugar and increasingly tight supply, U.S. jobs at these companies are at serious risk. In the confectionery industry alone, we have lost 15,000 jobs in the last few years.”
Under current law the U.S. government is obliged to set legal limits on the amount of sugar that domestic processors are permitted to sell, and to establish strict limits in imports as mandated by law. These limits have resulted in significant supply shortages, Mr. Graham said.
“U.S. confectioners rely on sugar to make their products, meet their payroll and maintain jobs in their local communities,” he said. “U.S. companies cannot compete on our own soil with foreign candy companies who pay much lower world sugar prices and import their candies into the U.S. The bill introduced today by Senator Shaheen would go a long way in keeping U.S. confectionery company jobs in hometowns across America.”
Meanwhile, Phillip Hayes, spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, a national coalition of sugarcane and sugar beet farmers, processors, refiners, suppliers, workers and others dedicated to preserving a strong domestic sugar industry, offered a different perspective.
“The introduction of legislation to gut a no-cost sugar policy and leave America dependent on unreliable foreign sugar producers is nothing new,” Mr. Hayes said. “Such attempts happen in almost every Congress and receive little support. That’s because jeopardizing the country’s food security, harming rural economies, and attacking a no-cost policy during times of federal deficits is simply bad policy. Given the market stability U.S. sugar policy provides, many foreign sugar producers oppose attempts like this to eliminate it. America needs a strong rural economy and smart, fiscally responsible policies right now, not the same old anti-farmer bills that food manufacturers have been pushing for decades. No wonder support for U.S. sugar policy is at an all-time high.”