House appropriators back sugar policy again

Published online: May 29, 2014

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House Appropriations Committee reaffirmed lawmakers’ support of the sugar policy included in the 2014 farm bill Thursday by rejecting an amendment designed to weaken that policy and leave Americans more dependent on subsidized foreign sugar.

By a vote of 32 to 18, the committee defeated a proposal to subject sugar producers to an arbitrary means test before they could obtain government loans that they repay with interest. The amendment was offered by Congressmen Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) and was similar to an amendment offered in 2012 that was likewise rejected by the committee.

“This was just another attempt by sugar opponents and the big candy companies they represent to harm U.S. sugar farmers, and the committee should be commended for overwhelmingly rejecting this scheme,” said Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance. “It’s hard to imagine any agricultural issue that has been voted on as many times as sugar policy in recent years, yet the votes continually show strong support for domestic producers.”

During the farm bill debate, which began in 2012, a total of five anti-sugar amendments were defeated on the floors of the House and Senate. In addition, three amendments have been defeated at the committee level since 2012, including today’s vote.

“Sugar prices have been extremely depressed because of a flood of subsidized Mexican sugar that has been dumped onto the U.S. market,” Hayes explained. “U.S. farmers are struggling in this low-price environment with prices hovering around 1980s levels, yet we continue to come under attack by Big Candy lobbyists who want to outsource America’s production to less efficient, subsidized foreign industries.”

Sugar policy operated at no cost to taxpayers from 2003 to 2012 and it is the least costly major commodity policy in the Farm Bill. There was a cost in 2013 as a direct result of unfair trading practices by Mexico.

The U.S. government is currently investigating Mexico’s sugar industry—20 percent of which is owned by the Mexican government—and has cited strong evidence that subsidization and dumping are injuring U.S. farmers and taxpayers.