The Sugar Beat
Congressmen Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Danny Davis (D-IL) sent their congressional colleagues a letter on May 11 urging them to eliminate no-cost U.S. sugar policy, and by extension, America’s ability to grow sugar at home.
The lawmakers cited “sugar shortages” as the reason to leave Americans dependent on foreign sugar producers, who they hope will flood the U.S. market with subsidized sugar that is produced under low labor and environmental standards.
Ironically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new official government market projections the same day that dramatically increased projected domestic sugar surpluses. According to the USDA, the United States will have an estimated 1.6 million tons of leftover sugar on the market at the end of FY 2011.
To put that figure into perspective, it is more than enough surplus product to provide every man, woman, and child in the country with 10 pounds of sugar in addition to what they’re already consuming. Not exactly the sugar shortage situation Reps. Pitts and Davis were depicting.
The lawmakers can’t be blamed for making this assertion. They were simply repeating what they read in the Wall Street Journal a few days earlier, so food manufacturer lobbyists must share blame.
A spokesperson for the American Bakers Association (ABA), a special interest group that represents several multinational food conglomerates, told the newspaper that the country’s supply situation would not improve this year.
He was proven wrong just days later by the USDA.
The ABA’s unfounded dire prediction even led the Wall Street Journal to offer this head-scratching observation: “As the U.S. wrestles with how to cut spending, several lawmakers this year have presented bills to Congress that aim to eliminate the sugar program…”
Considering sugar policy hasn’t cost taxpayers a dime since 2002 and is projected by the USDA to remain no-cost to taxpayers through at least 2020, it’s unclear how these bills would help the U.S. cut spending as the newspaper asserts.
Then again, the Wall Street Journal’s track record hasn’t exactly been stellar when it comes to sugar supplies. Two years ago, the newspaper—using information from big food companies—ran a front-page story that America would “virtually run out of sugar.”
They were wrong that time too—America concluded that year with 1.5 million tons of carryover sugar stocks, nearly as much as is forecast for this year.
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