From the ASA

Continue America's No-Cost Sweet Success Story

Published in the November 2011 Issue Published online: Nov 30, 2011 Larry Combest (R)-Texas

The sign of any successful policy is one under which all parties affected by it are able to succeed and thrive.

It is how Congress attempts to structure all pieces of legislation. Although as a former House Member, I can attest that this goal is often unrealized as unforeseen factors come into play and unintended consequences crop up.

That has not been the case with America's sugar policy. Since the 2008 Farm Bill, you would be hard pressed to find anyone struggling with the outcome.

First, taxpayers have succeeded. Sugar policy operates at no cost to taxpayers-an anomaly in today's budget atmosphere. And according to projections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will continue to cost $0 through at least 2021.

The family farms and small businesses that comprise the U.S. sugar industry have likewise succeeded. After years of plant closures caused by stagnant, low sugar prices-nearly 40 plants have closed since 1994-sugar producers have rebounded.

In fact, after losing more than 100,000 sugarrelated jobs since 1994, a new study by LMC International, shows the industry holding steady with 142,000 good-paying U.S. jobs and $20 billion in economic activity.

This success has also spilled over to the confectionery business, which, despite the economic recession, has enjoyed record sales and growth. Since the 2008 Farm Bill, U.S. candy production has jumped 2.5 percent, government data show.

All that added production has meant good news for people out of work, too.

Reports of expansion projects and job creation have filled the news this summer-ranging from Mars breaking ground on a new 350,000-squarefoot plant in Topeka, Kan., that will add 200 full-time jobs, to Spangler Candy's recent addition of 20 to 30 employees, and Richardson Brands boosting its workforce by 80 people.

And through it all, U.S. grocery shoppers continue to spend less of their incomes on sugar than any country in the world. The product is so inexpensive, in fact, that nearly every restaurant and coffee shop in America gives it away for free to patrons.

The benefits of sugar policy have also expanded beyond the U.S. border.

Paul Ryberg, president of the International Sugar Trade Coalition, which consists of sugar producers from developing nations in all regions of the world, said in August of America's current sugar policy: "By making it possible for these developing countries to export their sugar to the U.S. market at a fair price, the U.S. sugar program is a proven example of what has become a development policy mantra over the past several years: `Trade, not aid.'"

This is a much different story than what's been unfolding in the European Union (EU), which overhauled its sugar policies in 2005 to favor foreign growers. Sugar shortages have been so severe in Europe as a result that EU industry officials are warning the U.S. Congress not to make the same mistake.

Unfortunately, not all in Congress have listened and legislation has been introduced to completely undo America's no-cost success story.

A handful of executives from large candy companies will even be in town soon to lobby for the destruction of a working domestic sugar policy in favor of one that relies on importing subsidized sugar from Brazil and other mega-producers.

Despite record sales and impressive production growth, these candy executives seek to un-level the playing field in hopes of further boosting corporate profits to the detriment of U.S. sugar farmers, poor countries, and the nation's food security.

Of course, this isn't the first time these companies have asked Congress for an unfair handout. During debate of the 2008 bill, these same companies backed a package that would've left taxpayers footing a $1.3 billion bill each year.

Luckily, their lobbying efforts were thwarted, and the vast majority of lawmakers backed a nocost policy that has proven to be successful for all involved; even its opponents.

Here's hoping Congress shows the same wisdom this time around.

Editor's note: Combest, a Republican from West Texas, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 20 years, including as chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Agriculture.