Morning Take – Sour Times for Candy Makers: Ag Panels Protecting Sugar Program

CQ Roll Call
By: Philip Brasher

Every commodity program seems to be up for debate this year as Congress writes a new farm bill, and in most cases the programs are headed for dramatic overhaul. But there is one notable exception: sugar. The Senate farm bill would continue for another five years the complex quota system that limits domestic sugar supplies in order to prop up domestic prices. The House Agriculture Committee is certain to follow suit. …

… The program is organized in such a way that it has support not only from domestic sugar producers but also from farmers in developing countries who are guaranteed shares of the U.S. import quotas. The International Sugar Trade Coalition, which represents producers in the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Jamaica and more than a dozen other countries recently wrote the Senate Agriculture Committee expressing support for the program. Those farmers fear losing the U.S. market to Brazil or other competitors if their quotas are abolished, said Paul Ryberg, who represents the group. …

… Food and candy manufacturers, meanwhile, complain that they weren’t allowed to testify at the House hearings. Here’s Larry Graham, chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and president of the National Confectioners Association: “If Congress is truly concerned about jobs, why would it deny an open debate on a sugar program that is negatively impacting the interests of the 600,000 Americans employed by the sugar-using sector?”