The Big Candy lobby and its congressional allies launched a surprise attack against U.S. sugar policy on April 22. And it used a highly unusual vehicle in its attempt to sabotage the recently passed farm bill: an African aid package.
An amendment offered by Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey would have used the African Growth and Opportunity Act to flood the U.S. market with unneeded sugar imports.
The Senate Finance Committee rejected the scheme on a 10-16 vote, with the panel’s top Republican and Democrat – Sens. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) – both opposing the plan.
Committee members Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who also serve as the chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, led the efforts to kill Toomey’s amendment because it would undermine the carefully negotiated 2014 Farm Bill.
In addition, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) pointed out during the meeting that the amendment could jeopardize relations with other key trading partners like Mexico, Central America, and dozens of developing nations that depend on access to the U.S. sugar market.
America is the world’s biggest sugar importer, guaranteeing market share regardless of need to 41 countries, including numerous African sugar producers. Toomey’s bill would have picked winners and losers in the market, resulting in fewer opportunities and lower prices for non-African nations.
U.S. sugar producers were likewise worried that Big Candy’s sneak attack might increase the likelihood that the current $0 sugar policy would incur taxpayer cost in the future because of resulting oversupplies.
The amendment’s defeat is just the latest in a string of votes against candy company lobbyists looking to flood the U.S. market with subsidized sugar from abroad. Similar efforts to weaken U.S. sugar policy have been voted down three times on the Senate floor, two times on the House floor, and by two House committees in the past three years.
The American Sugar Alliance contends that the best way to empower African sugar producers, and all producers around the world, is to fix the broken world sugar market.
U.S. sugar interests are backing a global Zero-for-Zero sugar policy that would root out trade-distorting subsidies worldwide and promote free trade. Big Candy has opposed this effort in fear that fewer global subsidies could lead to fairer sugar prices that more reflect production costs.