Going Back in Time

Published in the May 2013 Issue Published online: May 31, 2013 Phillip Hayes

While publicly complaining that current sugar policy is a relic of the past, lobbyists for multinational food conglomerates are curiously pushing a bill that would roll back sugar policy to 1985 and eliminate all changes made by Congress in 2008 to deal with modern-day market realities.

Specifically, a bill introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and its House companion, would punish U.S. sugar growers with unfavorable rates on the loans they repay with interest.

Worse yet, these 1985-era rates would apply downward market pressure to already low sugar prices and help Big Candy executives pocket bigger profits at the expense of growers and consumers.

So how much have things evolved since 1985, the year to which Big Candy wants sugar growers sent back?

During that year:

 A new movie, "Back to the Future," was all the rage.

 So was the "We Are the World," a song created for African relief.

 That song could be heard on a new gadget called a "compact disc," which was introduced to the American public to compete with cassette tapes.

 Those CDs wouldn't yet work in computers, but Microsoft did release the first version.

 The revolutionary Windows system came at a good time since that year also saw the first ".com" domain name registered and the Internet would soon take off.

 Email was in its infancy and Microsoft Outlook was still more than a decade from release, which forced people to rely on 22-cent stamps to send letters.

 And only a wealthy few had a cellular phone, though most were far too bulky to carry and were instead installed as car phones.

 That new car only cost $9,000.

Then again not everything has changed so dramatically in the past three decades. The raw sugar price that many farmers received was about 21 cents per pound in 1985, according to USDA data. The current price of raw sugar is about 21 cents per pound.

Considering that the cost of a candy bar has more than tripled since 1985, it's no wonder confectioners are enjoying bigger profit margins than major oil companies. And that's saying something since a gallon of gas was just $1.05 in 1985.

So with profits climbing and ingredient costs staying low, why are food company executives so eager to punish sugar farmers?

According to a new advertising campaign by the American Sugar Alliance, the answer is simple: Big Candy's Greed.

That same ad campaign is urging lawmakers to "support current sugar policy-it works for America."