The Sugar Beat
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) recently released the initial draft of the House Farm Bill. That draft contained a continuation of no-cost sugar policy, and already Big Food lobbyists are angling for amendments when the committee considers the draft bill on July 11.
The anti-sugar lobbyists have their work cut out for them.
Not only were similar efforts to gut sugar policy rebuffed on the Senate Floor and in the House Appropriations Committee, but a broad and diverse pool of strong sugar policy supporters are mobilizing to beat back these latest efforts.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has made sugar policy continuation a priority, and the National Farmers Union (NFU) just sent a letter to the House Agriculture Committee opposing any anti-sugar amendments.
“The sugar program works extremely well for farmers, processors, consumers and taxpayers, as it operates at no cost to the federal government and keeps prices stable for producers and low for consumers,” NFU President Roger Johnson wrote on July 3. “I strongly urge you to oppose any efforts to weaken this program.”
The Farm Bureau and NFU aren’t alone. CoBank, a major lender in rural America, penned a similar letter that said, “We strongly support the current sugar policy that has worked so well for America and encourage the House Agriculture Committee to continue it without change.”
That policy, CoBank President and CEO Robert Engel noted, is “the only no-cost federal farm program and it effectively stabilizes an efficient sugar industry against unfairly subsidized, dumped foreign sugar.”
The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) likewise distributed a press release on July 5 in opposition to possible amendments.
“Any House amendment similar to the Toomey amendment that we saw in the Senate would undermine a program that costs taxpayers nothing and would threaten the jobs of thousands of Americans across the country,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. “The benefits of ending the sugar program would not go to U.S. consumers but rather to our foreign competitors, who are heavily subsidized.”
“The sugar program in the bill has evolved, just like every other Farm Bill program, over the years, and has reached a balance to ensure adequate and safe supplies of sugar at very competitive prices,” Conner continued. “NCFC strongly urges members of the House Agriculture Committee to vote against any amendment to change the program.”
The recent flurry of letters and statements is just a continuation of the vocal support sugar policy has received recently from third-party allies.
When the Senate was considering a Farm Bill, rice, cotton, and peanut farmers asked Southern lawmakers to support no-cost sugar policy. And similar letters have surfaced from local union leaders in sugar-producing areas as well as from developing country sugar producers who support a continuation of current policy.
Sugar producers are likewise working hard to make sure lawmakers understand that policy opponents’ messages of high prices, inadequate supplies, and job loss are all fallacies.
Data from the world’s leader in global sugar pricing recently found that U.S. grocery shoppers pay less for sugar than foreign consumers. The USDA also just verified a decade-high 1.8 million tons of sugar surpluses on the U.S. market—enough to fill the Capitol dome 55 times. And according to candy companies’ own news releases, they are expanding operations and adding jobs.
As CoBank concluded in Engel’s letter, “Quite simply, the sugar program works.”
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