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Candy Makers Cry over Spilled Milk (Chocolate)

By Chuck Muth, President, Citizen Outreach

Daniel Moore of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette wrote an article this week that again attacks the U.S. sugar program of import limits and tariffs on certain foreign sugar.

The article quotes a local candy manufacturer who complained that American sugar “costs roughly twice as much as sugar produced in other countries.”

As usual, such critics gloss over two important points…

1.)  The cost of foreign sugar is only cheaper because foreign nations are directly subsidizing the cost of production and export.  It’s like buying stolen watches.

As Philip Hayes, spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance told Mr. Moore, “The U.S. price of sugar, roughly 27 cents a pound, reflects the true cost of production.”

2.)  The cost of American sugar today is almost exactly what the cost of American sugar was 30 years ago.  So the higher cost for candy bars today isn’t because of the cost of sugar.

Indeed, the fact that sugar-infused products today cost more than yesteryear is due to rising employment costs, higher taxes, the rising cost of government regulatory compliance, rising insurance costs, rising real estate costs, etc.

Not sugar.

Nevertheless, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) – who represents “a substantial number of confectioners and food companies” – is cosponsoring a bill to gut the U.S. sugar program, claiming it “threatens thousands of well-paying jobs in Pennsylvania.”

I get the politics of this.  Toomey is willing to sacrifice the jobs of sugar farmers who don’t live in his state in order to subsidize, through cheap foreign imports, the manufacturing jobs of his constituents.

But playing parochial politics is no way to determine national trade policy.

And the fact is, as Mr. Moore pointed out in his article, “Farmers in the soybean, corn and dairy business receive heaps of taxpayer-funded subsidies” while American sugar farmers receive ZERO taxpayer-funded subsidies.

When it comes to reforming agricultural policy, it seems Congress should spend its time trying to provide a little relief to American taxpayers rather than trying to provide a bonanza to global sugar competitors who “cheat” in what certainly is NOT an international “free market.”