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Maybe It’s Time to Try Something New to Reform the U.S. Sugar Program?


(Chuck Muth, President, Citizen Outreach) – In a recent Weekly Standard op-ed titled “The Democrats’ Sweet Tooth,” Kevin Cochrane dishes out some of the same left-over propaganda arguments about the U.S. sugar program that have easily, though not widely, been discredited by reality.  Here’s a dollop of the counter-arguments…

1.)  Unlike many of our foreign competitors, there are no cash subsidies paid to American sugar farmers.  None. Zero.  Zilch.

2.)  The cost of U.S. sugar today is almost exactly what the cost of sugar was back during the Reagan presidency some 30 years ago.  If American consumers today are paying “higher prices for everything from bakery goods to candy bars,” it’s not because sugar costs more, but labor, government regulation, taxes and profit-taking.

3.)  Along that same line, if U.S. candy makers “have left the United States…taking tens of thousands of jobs with them,” it’s not because of the cost of sugar but, again, because of the higher cost of labor, government regulations, taxes and profit-taking.

4.)  The reason there is a U.S. sugar program still in place today isn’t to keep U.S. sugar prices artificially high, but to protect U.S. sugar farmers from foreign competitors whose governments unfairly and often unlawfully directly subsidize these less-efficient farmers to undercut American farmers by keeping their prices artificially low.

Mr. Cochrane also noted that efforts to phase out the sugar program in the 1996 farm bill weren’t successful.  Nor have subsequent efforts since.  That’s primarily because Congress keeps trying to do the same thing year after year.

Maybe it’s time to try something else?  Maybe it’s time make better trade deals that are a win-win for all parties instead of a win for foreign competitors and a loss for America’s farmers?

Maybe it’s time for Congress to take a serious look at Rep. Ted Yoho’s “Zero for Zero” proposal in which “the President, by agreements negotiated under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, should seek elimination of all direct and indirect subsidies benefitting the production or export of sugar by” other nations?

Maybe it’s time to negotiate trade agreements in which we eliminate our sugar program in return for them eliminating theirs so that the global sugar market isn’t only free of artificial distortion, but – and pardon the phrase – fair and balanced?

Maybe it’s time for Congress to stop doing the same thing and expect a different result?