Washington Post Editorial: Congress Needs to Roll Back Subsidies to Sugar Producers

An editorial in today’s edition of The Washington Post calls on Congress to reform the U.S. sugar program, writing:

“Federal policy coddles the U.S. sugar industry through import controls, soft loans and price targets. The result is higher consumer prices — and fewer jobs in the U.S. food industry. Still, for many years Big Sugar and its defenders could claim that the program was designed to avoid any direct expenditure of taxpayer funds and that it had, in fact, achieved that goal.

“Not anymore. The Agriculture Department lost $280 million on the sugar program in fiscal year 2013, with more losses expected next year. A surge of imports from Mexico has driven down U.S. sugar prices — to the point where it’s profitable for processors to take advantage of a U.S. law that lets them forfeit the sugar they posted as collateral for government loans and keep the cash. Stuck with mountains of excess sweetener, the government has two choices: hoard it until prices go up or sell it at a huge loss to the few ethanol makers willing to take it. …

“Now, the sugar lobby says, the United States should adopt a ‘zero-for-zero’ policy: We’ll stop fiddling with the sugar market when everyone else in the world does the same. …

“… Politics 101 says that’s not going to happen soon, so demanding ‘zero-for-zero’ amounts to an excuse for perpetuating policies that benefit U.S. producers at the expense of food processors and consumers. …

“The United States should stand for free trade in sugar and against protectionism. Setting a better example would help.”

Read the full editorial here.

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