Last week, hundreds of confectioners and bakers gathered on Capitol Hill, the meeting place of the US congress, to call for an end to the sugar price support programme, which they claim is keeping sugar prices artificially high and forcing food companies out of business.
Current US sugar policy was set with the 1981 Farm Bill, based on the principle that supply should not exceed demand in order to keep prices stable. The government can restrict the amount of sugar that American sugar farmers can sell, restrict the amount that the US will buy to the level required by trade obligations, and divert excess sugar to ethanol production.
While the American Sugar Alliance, which represents the interests of sugar cane and beet growers, is fully in favour of the existing policy, trade organisations such as the National Confectioners Association and the American Bakers Association argue that it costs consumers, small businesses and food manufacturers billions of dollars each year and is directly responsible for the loss of thousands of American jobs.
“The US sugar program has played a major role in the loss of thousands of jobs in sugar using industries,” said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association and chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform – an alliance of consumer and trade organisations, food and beverage manufacturers and other groups, whose mission is to promote sugar policy reform.
"As an example, just a few weeks ago, Yarnell Ice Cream – an 80-year-old family-owned business in Arkansas – went out of business, citing high sugar costs among other factors. These costs would have been far lower without current US sugar policy,” he told BakeryandSnacks.com
The coalition claims reform of current policy is needed to put an end to tight sugar supplies, high sugar prices, plant closures and job losses, and has been lobbying Members of Congress to bring about change.
“We are working with Members of Congress on a state-by-state basis at the grassroots level to elevate the issue among consumers, voters and policymakers, and educate as many people as possible about the need to reform US sugar policy.
We have also held a number of constituent events and have launched a grassroots microsite to generate awareness and provide a vehicle for visitors to contact Members of Congress,” said Graham.
Several reform bills have been introduced in the US House and US Senate this year, with the aim of reforming the sugar programme by amending the 2012 Farm Bill. These include the Free Sugar Act of 2011, the SUGAR (Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions) Act of 2011 and the Free Market Sugar Act.
“We support all of these bills,” confirmed Graham.