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Beware the Big Candy Bailout

Even though U.S. Census data say otherwise, U.S. candy manufacturers claim they have been shipping jobs overseas for years.  And according to their extremely well-compensated lobbyists, the fault is the high price of domestic sugar.

As such, Big Candy is once again seeking a congressional bailout of sorts this week in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill; its ninth effort since 2012 to gut the U.S. sugar program.

A program by the way, that costs taxpayers zero dollars yet provides a modicum of protection – through relatively minor import tariffs and quotas – against international competitors whose governments heavily subsidize their own sugar industries.

If Big Candy is successful in throwing American sugar farmers and manufacturers under the bus, it won’t be to bring back American jobs, or even to save any.  It’ll be to fatten their bottom lines, and the end result will probably be the loss of U.S. sugar related jobs.

The attack on the U.S. sugar program would amount to a bailout for companies that are already reaping record profits and expanding operations under the false pretense that domestic sugar producers are raping the American consumer.

The truth is, while the cost of a candy bar has skyrocketed since Ronald Reagan was president, the cost of a pound of good, old-fashioned U.S. sugar is right around where it was 30 years ago. So while you can blame a lot of factors for the high cost of a chocolate bar these days, the cost of sugar certainly isn’t one of them.

All of which brings us to why this issue continues to be such a bone of agricultural contention in the first place.

The true villains are foreign sugar producers who enjoy the ability to sell their product in the international marketplace at below market prices thanks to exceptionally generous government subsidies.

To expect American farmers and refiners to compete on a level playing field that isn’t level is absurd, especially if the ultimate result will be to bail out candy manufactures by beefing up their profit margins.

Instead, the way to eliminate even the token U.S. sugar program as it exists today is to work through the World Trade Organization and negotiate an end to our program simultaneously and in return for other major sugar-producing nations ending their own, far more egregious programs.

Florida Rep. Ted Yoho has introduced just such a “zero-for-zero” resolution that moves the U.S. towards such an agreement.  Congress should adopt Yoho’s proposal instead of bailing out yet another industry that would have us believe it is too big to fail.