In case you’ve forgotten, May marks the 72nd anniversary of sugar rationing in this country. Sugar was the first crop rationed in 1942, and it was the last commodity removed from the rationing list five years later.
Back then, America didn’t have a nationwide domestic sugar industry and the Western States relied on shipments from the Philippines and Hawaii. But the Japanese conquered the Philippines and ships in Hawaii normally used to ship sugar were needed for the war effort.
The country’s supply of sugar was cut by a third almost overnight. And, the government’s Office of Price Administration issued 123 million copies of War Ration Book One, which contained stamps people could use to buy sugar.
Americans quickly learned the hard way that sugar wasn’t a luxury found in cakes, cookies or chocolate bars. Even today, it is a food staple needed in bread, cereal and other healthy foods. It is also a valuable preservative and bulking agent.
But the most important lesson learned was that depending on others for an essential food ingredient is a recipe for disaster. It’s why the government encouraged domestic sugar production and why it established the modern-day U.S. sugar policy.
As the country’s sugar farmers and the 142,000 jobs they support wrestle with today’s challenges – including foreign subsidies, low prices, and relentless policy attacks by candy makers – let’s never forget where we came from. And let’s not relive those painful days of foreign sugar dependence again.