Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief for RedState, hosted a panel of conservatives in June to discuss sugar policy and the ongoing farm bill debate.
Panelists argued that unilateral disarmament of U.S. policy was not a free-market strategy and urged support of a "zero-for-zero" strategy, where U.S. policy would be eliminated once foreign subsidies are curbed.
"Because of massive subsidies in other countries-particularly Brazil, Thailand, India, and so forth-they have come to dominate the world sugar market and the old [sugar policy] debate . just doesn't work anymore," explained Larry Hart, government affairs director of the American Conservative Union.
Hart explained that the global sugar market is much different today than in the past "but many of my fellow conservatives are basing their views on what the market used to be."
"I think we need a new paradigm, and I think this zero-for-zero approach holds an avenue to possibly break this stalemate and get a true free market in the long run," he said.
Former Congressman Jeff Landry (R-LA) agreed, noting that U.S. sugar producers are efficient and would thrive in a free market. But to achieve a level playing field, he explained, it is time to get serious about rooting out the policies that are manipulating global prices.
U.S. trade officials should start by targeting Brazil, which receives $2.5 billion a year in subsidies, controls half of global exports, and is rapidly expanding government interference, Landry said. "It cannot always be dependent upon the United States to unilaterally fix the global market," he continued. "We have to have partners in being able to fix that market."
ASA Chairman Ryan Weston noted that U.S. confectioners should also join the zero-for-zero push.
"It would actually be great if our industry and those who oppose us could get together on something," he said, "because if they are truly interested in a free market for sugar worldwide then they should be for this just like we are."
Weston noted that possible farm bill amendments to weaken U.S. sugar policy would only reward the world's biggest subsidy recipients, like Brazil and Mexico, while making Americans more dependent on foreign suppliers for food and doing nothing to advance a free market.