Sugar Subsidies Debated in Farm Bill

With the farm bill finally being debated by the full Senate, politicians and lobbyists are working overtime to offer amendments and guarantee that various special interests will be adequately represented in the final legislation. The most recent farm bill fight has been between sugar growers and American confectioners over U.S. sugar programs.

Current sugar policies are designed to benefit domestic growers by limiting the amount of sugar that can be imported from overseas and limiting how much can be sold in the United States. While these policies may benefit sugar growers, some organizations have claimed that they artificially inflate sugar prices and pass higher costs onto consumers. The Cato Institute has estimated that U.S. consumers pay about 50 percent more for sugar than their counterparts overseas do.

The controversial policies have remained unchanged for more than a decade, and are preserved in their entirety in the 2012 Farm Bill, largely because of successful lobbying by sugar growers. In 2012, sugar-grower advocacy groups gave $2.1 million to members of Congress, including more than $48,000 to Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow and nearly $40,000 to House Agriculture Committee chair Frank Lucas.

Confectioners like Hershey, Mars, and the National Confectioners Association, however, are attempting to undermine this lobbying domination by organizing their own donations to influential legislators. This year alone, they have spent more than $1 million lobbying major congressional leaders.

Their efforts may pay off. Already, Senator Dick Lugar has introduced an amendment to the farm bill that would end the sugar policy in question.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer