<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Washington, D.C., May 16, 2006— Consumer, taxpayer, humanitarian and public policy groups sent a letter today, urging Members of Congress to vote for an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill to be offered by Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on the House floor on Wednesday. Their amendment addresses the U.S. sugar program, which, the letter says, “restricts the supply of sugar, guarantees a minimum price to sugar producers, and mandates an import quota regime.”
The groups pointed out that the sugar program is a costly one, resulting in “higher food prices for U.S. consumers, lost jobs in sugar-related industries, a waste of taxpayer dollars, environmental damage, particularly in Florida, and the loss of economic opportunities for many small farmers in developing countries.”
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The eight organizations signing the letter are participants in the Sugar Reform Alliance (SRA), which is a working group of nonprofits whose mission is to reform the U.S. sugar program and is coordinated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Besides CEI, other signatories include Consumer Federation of America, National Taxpayers Union, Center for Global Food Issues (Hudson Institute), Foundation for Democracy in Africa, Oxfam America, the Free Enterprise Fund, and DKT Liberty Project.
Fran Smith, adjunct fellow at CEI and founder of the Alliance, said that the wasteful and protectionist U.S. sugar program faces both domestic and international pressures. “The huge federal deficit looming over a new farm bill due in 2007 will put pressure on all farm handouts and protectionist policies, with sugar not likely to be exempted,” she said. “International trade negotiations also will intensify scrutiny of sugar and other trade-distorting programs. In addition, the current sugar program won’t survive the agreement with Mexico to allow their sugar exports to enter the U.S. duty-free by 2008,” Smith noted.
Smith said that the Blumenauer-Flake amendment sends a signal that changes in the U.S. sugar system are long overdue.