The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article last week about U.S. sugar policy.
Overall, the article seemed balanced, but farm policy opponents used it as an opportunity to personally attack specific lawmakers for their support of U.S. farmers.
Attacking individual legislators is never a smart political move – especially since the critics are lobbying those same lawmakers to outsource some of America’s food production. But the misleading manner in which the attacks were made is particularly troubling.
Let’s start with Spangler Candy, maker of the iconic Dum Dum lollipop. A spokesman for the company claimed it moved operations to Mexico because of sugar prices. Sounds terrible. Until you learn that Spangler Candy not only still produces candy in Ohio, but it has expanded its Ohio operations and added jobs.
They aren’t alone. Since the 2014 Farm Bill took hold, U.S. confectioners have invested more than $3.3 billion in U.S. expansion projects and added well over 4,000 jobs.
In other words, Spangler and their Big Candy colleagues are growing their domestic footprint, not fleeing the country.
Then there was this Big Candy quote: “Life Savers used to be made in Chicago. Now they’re made in Mexico. … They didn’t move down there for labor. They moved down there for the sugar.”
So how cheap is sugar in Mexico? According to USDA data, wholesale prices for refined sugar in Mexico have averaged 39 cents per pound this year. By comparison, USDA data show U.S. prices have averaged 30 cents this year.
Yes, average sugar prices are one-third higher in Mexico than in the United States. And candy companies are paying even less in the U.S. than they did decades ago.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer article noted: “The price manufacturers pay for sugar is less now – 29.65 cents a pound at the end of 2016 – than the 38.29 cents a pound it cost in 1980.”
The same cannot be said for U.S. labor costs, which continue to rise and are far more expensive than in Mexico.
In summary, Big Candy spun a big whopper while chastising elected officials for backing America’s food security.
Luckily, lawmakers see right through their scheme. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who was singled out in the piece by farm policy critics, explained her position very well in this excerpt:
Well said, Ms. Kaptur. And thank you, and all of your colleagues, who support the 142,000 sugar farmers and workers across this country.