In the House Agriculture Committee discussion Wednesday, an amendment offered by Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to strike down the standing sugar program in the FARRM Act was voted down 10-36, much to the dismay of sugar reform supporters.
The sugar program has long been a source of debate among sugar producers, users and processors. While some say that the current sugar program drives up costs for consumers and pushes manufacturers out of the country, those on the other side of the argument say removing the sugar program would do nothing but put more money in candy company pockets.
As it stands, the sugar program employs a limit on sugar imports to encourage higher prices for domestic sugar.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the program saw many changes in the 2008 Farm Bill, including the addition of a Tariff-Rate Quota, which limits the amount of sugar that can be imported at the preferential in-quota tariff rate. A provision was also added to divert excess sugar to ethanol production.
Since 2008, these measures have resulted in different impacts on manufacturers that use sugar and the farmers that grow sugar cane and sugarbeets.
The American Sugarbeet Growers Association opposed the amendment. The group says that the American economy benefits from U.S. Sugar Policy, and that it adds $21.1 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Additionally, the ASGA touts the program as a no-cost-to-taxpayers program, meaning sugar farmers aren't receiving subsidy checks.
~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~The American Sugar Alliance is in agreement with the ASGA.
"Supporters of sugar policy criticized the Goodlatte amendment because it would have stripped the U.S. Department of Agriculture of the tools it needs to operate sugar policy at no cost to taxpayers," the American Sugar Alliance said in a statement Wednesday. "[Sugar policy] has kept sugar prices lower than the world average for U.S. grocery shoppers and has helped ensure sugar surpluses in the United States while other countries have wrestled with shortages."
They also said the amendment would have mandated oversupplies of sugar on the U.S. market, costing jobs in rural America—an argument that is also used by the amendment opposition.
The Coalition for Sugar Reform, an organization that has been at the forefront of the policy opposition, said that the amendment would keep jobs—not eliminate them. They cite a study from the U.S. Department of Commerce that points to data suggesting the sugar program has cost the U.S. three American manufacturing jobs for every sugar growing job that was "saved through artificially high U.S. sugar prices."
"Whether it is in the form of higher grocery bills or the closing and relocation of businesses overseas due to high sugar prices, American consumers, businesses and workers feel the economic impact of the flawed U.S. sugar program," CSR said.
They estimate that 125,000 jobs were lost between 1997 and 2010 because manufacturers crossed the border to take advantage of lower sugar prices.
Equipped with that data, the group has pledged to continue their fight to discontinue the sugar program right onto the House floor.
"The fight for sugar reform is far from over," CSR wrote. "We know that reform-minded members of the House are committed to pressing for sugar reform on the floor, and we will redouble our efforts to urge Congress to enact reforms."