Over recent weeks, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Hershey’s Chocolate) and others have mounted a well-coordinated, inside-the-beltway campaign to elevate discussion of the U.S. sugar program to the same level as ISIS, Syrian refugees and the San Bernardino terrorist attack.
The effort enjoyed some success in that NBC “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd raised the issue last weekend in an interview with Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
In typical “gotcha”-style questioning, Todd deadpanned with a slight smirk on his face: “You don’t like the federal subsidy, bailout, however you want to define it, when it comes to [Obamacare]. How can you defend sugar subsidies?”
Rubio didn’t miss a beat.
“There is no such thing as a sugar subsidy,” the Florida senator replied. “It’s a sugar program, and by law, it’s a zero cost program.”
Todd pressed on, maintaining that the program was costing consumers money even if not taxpayers. But Rubio rightly pointed out that “the sugar price today is the same as it was in the early 80’s.”
So much for that argument.
Todd argued that global competition, however, would lower the cost of sugar, thus saving consumers money. But Rubio noted that the cost of global sugar is artificially cheap due to sugar subsidies offered by foreign sugar-producing governments.
“Let me be clear,” Rubio said. “If other countries get rid of theirs I’m ready to get rid of ours. I’m prepared to compete head on, but I’m not going to let Brazil wipe out our agriculture system.”
Indeed, the danger of allowing other sugar-producing countries to “dump” their subsidized sugar on the U.S. market is that it would put U.S. sugar farmers out of business. At which point, cane fields would likely be developed commercially, making them unusable for farming in the future.
At that point, the U.S. would be at the mercy of foreign sugar exporters, who would be free to jack up the price to sugar to whatever level they want with no fear of American competition. And at that point you’ll need a bank loan to buy a Snickers.
Rubio’s defense of the U.S. sugar program was a strong endorsement for a congressional resolution sponsored by Rep. Ted Yoho. Yoho’s “zero-for-zero” proposal would eliminate the U.S. sugar program in return for foreign competitors ending their substantial sugar subsidies so that everyone is competing on a level playing field in a global free market.
So let it be written; so let it be done.
Watch the interview. Start at about 19 minutes in…
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