WASHINGTON — Sweetener users have formed a new alliance in an effort to change or modernize the controversial U.S. sugar program, which has withstood numerous challenges in many past farm bills.
The Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy (A.F.S.P.) was launched March 19 and replaces the Coalition for Sugar Reform, which previously led the fight to change the farm bill’s sugar program. The new group hopes to involve both sides of the sugar program debate, organizers said during a conference call on March 19.
“The family farmer and the families who depend on manufacturing workers should be at the center of modernizing the sugar program,” said John Downs, president and chief executive officer of the National Confectioners Association and co-chair of the A.F.S.P. “Our modest approach is the right policy to protect and create jobs for both the family farmer and American manufacturing workers. There is a simple solution — it’s time for Congress to say yes to fairness, yes to competitiveness and yes to protecting and creating American manufacturing jobs.”
The A.F.S.P. supports The Sugar Policy Modernization Act (H.R. 4265 / S. 2086), which it said would create an adequate supply of sugar based on a reasonable competitive approach that reaches from the farm to the retail shelf — without risking an appropriate safety net for farmers.
Support for the U.S. sugar program, which is reviewed every five years when the farm bill is up for renewal as it is this year, is led by the American Sugar Alliance (A.S.A.), which represents sugar cane and sugar beet growers, processors and refiners, suppliers, workers and others involved in the sugar industry. The A.S.A. maintains that the sugar program is necessary to protect farmers and sugar producing jobs as long as other countries maintain various types of sugar subsidies that result in world sugar prices below actual cost of production.
The new A.F.S.P. includes family-owned businesses and manufacturers, retailers, food and beverage companies, trade associations, think tanks and taxpayer, environmental and responsible government advocates and other organizations.
“For too long, consumers, small businesses and manufacturers have paid the price for an outdated program that hurts so many and benefits only a few,” said Rick Pasco, president of the Sweetener Users Association and co-chair of the A.F.S.P. “The sugar program is a complicated bureaucratic mess of price supports, market allocations, quotas and government guarantees that are ultimately backstopped by taxpayer dollars. This is the time for this Congress and this administration to do the right thing for American businesses and American workers.”
Members include the American Bakers Association, the Independent Bakers Association, the Retail Bakers of America, the National Confectioners Association, the American Beverage Association, the American Frozen Food Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Food Marketing Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the Sweetener Users Association and several others.
“The U.S. sugar program places a hidden tax on American bakers who rely on sugar as a key ingredient, said Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the American Bakers Association (A.B.A.). “The high price of artificially inflated U.S. sugar has inhibited the baking industry’s ability to rise and create more jobs in our lock communities.”
Mike Goscinski, A.B.A. director of government relations, added, “Fairness in U.S. sugar policy will help protect our nation’s farmers, while allowing its bakers to continue feeding American families and enriching our economy.”The new A.F.S.P. web site is www.fairsugarpolicy.org. The A.S.A. web site is www.sugaralliance.org.