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Free Trade and Free Economic War

(Judson Phillips) – When the military action between Ukraine and Russia kicked off in February, experts began warning of food shortages.  Sanctions and counter sanctions have wreaked havoc on global trade, particularly in grain.  In the Middle East, there are food shortages because of this.

Fortunately, Americans are not seeing any food shortages yet.

The most important word is yet.

The last two years, even before Ukraine, have shown the fragility of the international supply chain.  For Americans, we don’t have to worry about food shortages yet.

But depending on what Congress does next year, that could change. America depends on sugar as an essential part of foods from sweets to breads to sauces and sugar farmers support over 151,000 jobs in the United States.  Sugar is one of the leading crops in the United States. Sugar farmers employ over one hundred and fifty thousand people. That’s just the direct employees. That does not count the number of people employed in companies that support the sugar farming industry.

Sugar is one of the most important components in America’s food.

The problem is other sugar producers around the world use “free trade” as an excuse to dump sugar and if they had their way, they would do it in the United States. Unfortunately, there are too many conservatives who would invoke “free trade” to dismantle the protections for American farmers and allow the dumping of sugar into the American market.

Dumping sugar onto the world market and into the United States is not simply something that might happen. It is happening now. In December 2021, the World Trade Organization sanctioned India for its massive subsidies of sugar and the fact that India simply dumped six to seven million metric tons of sugar onto the world market.  The World Trade Organization noted that this dumping action drove the price of sugar around the world below the cost of production.

The term for this kind of action is predatory pricing. Produce so much of a product that the glut drives the cost of the commodity below the cost of production. In the case of farmers who do not receive subsidies, such as American sugar farmers, it becomes impossible to stay in business and that is the goal of this kind of dumping and predatory pricing.

The real threat America and her farmers face is not simply an economic threat. It is a matter of national security.  As we have watched supply chain disruptions over the last two years, it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to think about a world where American farmers are forced out of business by foreign sugar producers, who then raise prices or refuse to sell sugar at all. The cost of food goes up and if there are glitches in the international supply chain, cost becomes irrelevant when product is completely unavailable.

Americans only understand food on demand. The concept of not being able to get the food of their choice from grocery stores or restaurants is simply incomprehensible.

One of America’s top priorities must be the protection of our domestic food supply.  Imagine for a moment, actual food shortages in the United States.  If you think that is far-fetched, remember the toilet paper shortages of a couple of years ago? That was an inconvenience, but it would be nothing compared to not being able to get food for yourself or your family.

People lined up at stores for toilet paper.  While not having toilet paper is an inconvenience, it is nothing like not being able to get food for yourself and your family.  We would see riots in the streets and a destabilizing of the American government.

Food security must be protected.

Thankfully, there is a policy in place to support American sugar farmers.

American sugar farmers must be protected.  Early next year, Congress will take up work on the bi-annual Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that must be reauthorized every five years.  The Farm Bill is the mechanism that Congress uses to set policies to support American sugar farmers.  Congress must continue U.S. sugar policy in next year’s bill.

Failing to protect American sugar farmers could literally mean failing to protect our national food supply.

Judson Phillips is the Associate Director for and founder of Tea Party Nation. This column was originally published by on September 5, 2022.