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Sweet Letter on a Sour Program

Here’s a fine letter from yesterday’s Baltimore Sun:

The letter from the
chairman of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida was a painful
reminder that the U.S. sugar program benefits only a handful of people
("Boost for sugar is good for city," May 23).

The current
price of U.S. sugar is roughly 20 cents per pound. The price of sugar
on the world market is about 10 cents per pound.

Any economist
will tell you that the price of our domestic sugar is artificially
inflated by strict regulation of imports, a commodity loan program that
forces the government to buy up any sugar that domestic producers can’t
sell and production controls that make it illegal for domestic sugar
processors to sell more than their government-assigned allotments, even
if they have buyers standing in line.

By keeping domestic
sugar prices so high, the current sugar program encourages companies
that use sugar in their products to move their factories to countries
such as Canada and Mexico where they can buy less-expensive sugar and
then just bring the finished products back here.

If you owned a factory that made candy, wouldn’t
you jump at the chance to cut the cost of your key ingredient in half,
especially if you could do so by simply relocating a few miles across
the border?

Regrettably, Congress just passed a new farm bill that makes a sweet program for sugar growers and processors even sweeter.

by mandating a new and costly sugar-for-ethanol program, the bill will
require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus sugar
for about 20 cents per pound and then resell it to ethanol plants for
less than 10 cents per pound.

The sugar program has always
been touted as one with no net cost to taxpayers. But this costly new
measure requires the government to give away taxpayer dollars.

This would be laughable if it were not so outrageous.

Thomas A. Schatz

The writer is president of Citizens Against Government Waste.