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Sugar Program Opponents are Entitled to their Own Opinions, but not Their Own Facts

(November 18, 2013) – On November 8, 2013, the Tampa Bay Times published an editorial titled “End the sweet deal for Big Sugar” which declared that “If there is a poster child for what is wrong with U.S. farm policy, it’s sugar.”

The editorial concluded: “Until lawmakers stand up to Big Sugar, taxpayers will keep propping up the industry (and) paying more for food…”

In response, Robert E. Coker, senior vice president of U.S. Sugar Corp. in Clewiston, Florida, submitted the following letter-to-the-editor, which was published by the Times on November 15, 2013…

Americans pay less for sugar

American consumers pay less for sugar than consumers in most other developed countries and have for years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that October sugar prices in Mexico were 27 cents a pound. With U.S. prices at 26 cents a pound, it’s more likely that candymakers who have moved abroad did so because they pay 50 cents an hour in Mexico’s sugar industry compared to $20 an hour plus benefits in the United States. World sugar prices are currently 28 cents a pound delivered to America. Global giants like Hershey, Wrigley and Mars have been reporting record profits and expanding factories across the United States.

The real question is why these giant, global food companies have not passed along any of the savings they’ve reaped with farm-level sugar prices down 50 percent over the last two years. So much for the Times’ claim that if food companies get lower-cost sugar, consumers get cheaper food. Instead, these multinational food conglomerates pocket huge profits and use their world-class marketing departments to get sweeter media coverage.

Absent the recent flood of subsidized, government-owned Mexican sugar imports, compliments of NAFTA, sugar policy has operated at no cost for more than a decade – the only major farm program to do so.

Indeed, the Financial Times reported last week that the 1994 NAFTA agreement took effect for sugar in 2008 and has allowed Mexico “to export virtually unlimited amounts.” The Times also noted that “Mexican imports are forecast to continue flowing this year, pushing the US oversupply ratio to its highest level in 13 years.”

Facts are, indeed, stubborn things.