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USDA welcomes back no-cost sugar program

The best laid plans of those who detest U.S. sugar policy, but salivate over sugar-sweetened food profits, renewed their congressional efforts to hobble, if not permanently disable, our domestic sugar industry this month.  Alas, the USDA just gave their efforts the ol’ ice bucket challenge routine.

Last week, the Capital Press reported that the USDA “has projected the nation’s sugar program will operate at no cost to taxpayers for the next decade.”

No.  Cost.  To.  Taxpayers.  For at least the next ten years.

The American Sugar Alliance applauded the news, pointing out that the U.S. sugar policy “is the least expensive major commodity policy in the Farm Bill” because farmers do not receive subsidy checks.  Instead, American sugar producers receive minimal protection from artificially cheap sugar imports through managed tariffs and import quotas.

ASA noted that the U.S. sugar policy “ran at no cost to taxpayers from 2003 to 2012 and again in 2014.”  But what about last year?

“There was a net cost of $259 million in 2013,” reports Agri-Pulse, “when USDA had to take emergency action to prevent the market from collapsing after Mexico dumped a record amount of subsidized sugar onto the U.S. market.”

But Michael Scuse, USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Services, explained that an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico reached in December is the reason the USDA predicts no further reoccurrences of the 2013 anomaly.

“I do not want to see a repeat of that episode,” Scuse said last week at the 2015 International Sweetener Colloquium in Orlando, Florida.

Even representatives of Big Candy acknowledged the good news for taxpayers and commended Mr. Scuse for his efforts to resolve the Mexican dumping problem.

“As the under secretary noted in his remarks, USDA is required by law to provide adequate supplies of sugar at reasonable prices,” the Sweetener Users Association said in a statement.

“Balancing the interests of both sugar users and sugar producers while providing transparency and addressing the continued market uncertainty the program brings is no easy feat, and Under Secretary Scuse and his team at USDA have faced that challenge head on.”

With a new agreement in hand with Mexico, it’s now time for Congress to address the “continued market uncertainty” caused by other major international sugar producers who similarly distort the market by directly subsidizing their own sugar industries.

THAT would be sweet.