Glad you posted about the bloated farm bill and how sugar is treated. A “Sweetheart Deal” — how right the Washington Post is in its editorial today blasting farm bill proposals that would make the U.S. sugar program an even sweeter deal for producers while consumers foot the bill.
The current sugar program — which has expired but has been extended with other 2002 farm programs — is a system of price supports, domestic production restrictions, and restrictions on sugar imports. The new bill would distort the market even further. It would raise the price supports for U.S. sugar cane and sugar beets, thus guaranteeing sugar producers twice the world price; provide domestic producers with 85 percent of the U.S. market, and protect them from competition by turning imported sugar into ethanol. The Sweetener Users — a coalition of food, beverage, and confectioners pushing for reform of the sugar program — estimates that the farm bill will cost consumers about $2 billion over five years.
That sweet deal is one that the Bush Administration doesn’t like and is one of the issues that may indeed provoke a presidential veto. The Administration thinks real reform of the programs was needed, and income caps for who can receive subsidies should be lowered. But farm programs, especially sugar, get heavy support from their lobbyists and from Congress. Add to that the fact that the majority of farm bill money goes for food stamps and nutrition programs — which almost guarantees that urban, suburban, and rural representatives also want the bill to pass.
In a period where farmers are making unprecedented profits, and consumers are feeling the pinch of higher food prices, it should be a time when real reform of farm programs would have a chance. But don’t count on it.