Within the now-expired farm bill that has been stuck in the House due to Republican obstruction is a program to help support the U.S. sugar industry. If the bill comes up during a lame duck congressional session, then critics of the sugar program want it to be struck from the bill.
Now, candy makers are using Halloween to drum up opposition to the sugar subsidies. In a press release, the Coalition for Sugar Reform called the sugar program “one of the last Depression-era ghosts,” according to The Hill:
The colorful flyer argues that the U.S. sugar program is costing consumers $3.5 billion a year through higher prices and puts 600,000 food processing jobs at risk.
The sugar program supports sugar beet and sugarcane growers by restricting imports of sugar. It also limits the amount of domestic sugar that can be sold as long as imports remain low.
The American Sugar Alliance, which represents farmers, has argued that sugar program does not affect the budget and that removing support for sugar farmers could make the U.S. overly dependent on imports.
“It’s surprising that lobbyists for some of the most profitable food companies in the world have instead focused on scoring cheap political points, putting U.S. farmers out of business, importing more subsidized foreign sugar, and boosting their already bloated profits,” said alliance spokesman Phillip Hayes. Regardless of what the sugar industry says about the subsidies, 46 senators voted to end the sugar program when the Senate considered the farm bill earlier this year — up from 29 in 2001.
The U.S. sugar program props up the nation’s sugar industry through import limitations and tariffs. A 2006 Commerce Department study found that three manufacturing jobs are lost for every one sugar-growing job that is saved through the artificially high sugar prices.
Additionally, the U.S. spends $4.9 billion each year in “direct payment” subsidies to farmers of certain crops. But instead of fulfilling the goal of giving small farmers “income stability,” the subsidies go to high-income owners of select croplands who are already enjoying high commodity prices and profits, according to analysis by the Center for American Progress. If Congress gradually phased out the subsidies, then this funding could be used for deficit reduction as well as farm-based clean energy projects, rural home modernizations, biofuel crop cultivation, and agricultural exports.