Unwrapping the Facts About “Big Sugar”

The federal government’s sugar program has created a cartel of 14 rich and powerful sugar companies at the expense of all American consumers and taxpayers. In fiscal year 2013 alone, three big sugar companies received the bulk of the $1.1 billion in sugar loans the federal government doled out. What’s more, the sugar program’s cost to U.S. taxpayers in the same year skyrocketed to nearly $300 million – all to prop up prices for profitable sugar producers.

For far too long the “Big Sugar” lobby has protected its subsidies by running a campaign of distortion, while the program it engineered has cost U.S. consumers and businesses up to $3.5 billion each year, putting 600,000 food manufacturing jobs at risk.

The sugar program may be a sweet deal for wealthy sugar companies, but not for American consumers, taxpayers and businesses. Unwrap the facts for yourself below.

1. MYTH: U.S. sugar prices are lower today than 30 years ago, yet the price of a candy bar has increased 300 percent over that time.

FACT: What’s ironic is that sugar producers have demonstrated they have no qualms in defending a program that has cost consumers and food companies billions of dollars. Moreover in FY 2013, U.S. sugar processors began forfeiting on their nonrecourse loans, also costing taxpayers nearly $300 million. The fact is, the price of any product reflects the cost of making it, and sugar is not the only driver of a product’s price.

2. MYTH: Food manufacturers pocket the windfall from falling sugar prices—down 50 percent since 2010—instead of sharing the savings with consumers.



FACT: U.S. refined sugar prices were at record highs between 2009-2012 because of the sugar program. Raw sugar prices have fallen some recently, and could easily go up again — hurting small- and medium-sized businesses the most. Meanwhile, the sugar program is benefitting a small group of already profitable sugar producers — several of which have more than $300 million in annual revenue and don’t need a federal handout.

3. MYTH: The press has reported dozens of major U.S. expansion projects by candy makers since 2012. 

FACT: As the U.S. economy recovers, candy makers, like manufacturers across a range of industries, have slowly begun returning to previous production levels. The question is, why is the U.S. government making it harder for manufacturers to compete by keeping in place a program that drives up the cost of a key ingredient in so many foods?

4. MYTH: Manufacturers of sugar-containing products have added jobs since 2006, while employment by other food manufacturers has fallen 3 percent.

FACT: Census data show an estimated 127,000 jobs were lost in sugar-using industries between 1997-2011. The Commerce Department estimates that for every sugar-producing job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, approximately three American manufacturing jobs are lost.

To unwrap additional facts about the sugar program, click here



Following are recent e-newsletters that will help you unwrap the facts about the U.S. sugar program and the need for reform. Click on the links to download and print a PDF version of each e-newsletter.

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