WASHINGTON — Similar bills seeking reform of US sugar policy were introduced July 26 by Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and 14 others in the US Senate (S. 2466) and by Virginia Foxx (NC), Danny Davis (Ill.) and 34 others in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 4680) on July 26.
The bills seek to lift restrictions on the domestic supply of refined sugar, reduce taxpayer liability for sugar processor loan forfeitures, ensure that the impact on consumers, manufacturers and farmers is taken into account when the US Department of Agriculture administers the sugar program and reduce market distortions caused by sugar import quotas, according to Ms. Shaheen’s office.
“The current sugar program is a sour deal for American consumers and taxpayers,” Mr. Toomey said. “It is long past time we reform this corporate welfare program that jacks up food prices while threatening thousands of good paying jobs. I hope my colleagues will join us in supporting this bipartisan bill to rein in this labyrinth of price control mechanisms that only serve to enrich a handful of wealthy sugar producers.”
The legislation, tagged the Fair Sugar Policy Act of 2021 by supporters, reasserts several attempts in past years to reform US sugar policy and was met with the expected strong support from sugar users and strong opposition from sugar producers.
“The outdated sugar program has prevented American food manufacturers from reinvesting in their business and hindered their ability to compete on a global scale,” said John Downs, president and chief executive officer of the National Confectioners Association. “We are encouraged by this meaningful step to enact common sense legislation that levels the playing field and modernizes this program to meet the needs of the entire supply chain.”
The American Sugar Alliance (ASA), which represents US sugar beet and sugarcane growers among others, responded: “The reintroduction of the cynically-named Fair Sugar Policy Act is yet another radical attempt to outsource American jobs to foreign countries who heavily subsidize their producers.
“These foreign producers are not held to the same high environmental and labor standards are our own sustainable sugar industry,” the ASA continued. “Congress has rightfully and soundly rejected similar proposals in the past. This time, the bill comes on the heels of a devastating global pandemic that continues to reaffirm the importance of maintaining strong domestic supply chains for essential products like sugar. Our farmers are also currently facing challenging weather conditions, including severe drought in several sugar growing states.
“We’re confident that Congress will, once again, see through this callous attempt to bankrupt America’s sugar farmers, and will instead continue its bipartisan support of our successful no-cost sugar policy.”
Sugar Users Association president Rick Pasco said: “The US sugar program has needed an update for decades. We urge Congress to approve this important legislation. The job-killing sugar program enriches a select few while costing all Americans at the grocery store. It’s time for this special-interest subsidy to be reformed.”
The US sugar program is part of the farm bill, which must be renewed by Congress every five years. It is administered by the USDA, with certain import restrictions also involving the Office of the US Trade Representative and the US Department of Commerce, the latter related to agreements suspending anti-dumping and countervailing duties on sugar from Mexico.