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March 20, 2007


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Sarah Press

Just this week the House Agriculture Committee released its Farm Bill outlining new changes to federal support for farmers. As the bill relates to sugar, it looks like consumers and workers might get less than a sweet deal.

For years our Sugar Program as it is known channels big subsidies to sugar growers to reduce their costs and let them grow more sugar. Yet that's not all Big Sugar gets. The sugar program also severely restricts the amount of foreign supplies of sugar that is allowed into the US market. These restrictions - a blend of very high border taxes and quotas - are designed to make sure that US consumers don't get the benefit of tasting sugar grown in other countries such as Brazil and Haiti.These trade restrictions on foreign supplies of sugar have actually been partly to blame for the elimination of 11,000 sugar refining and candy manufacturing jobs. These industries have had to close their doors to US operations and open shop overseas to take advantage of cheaper supplies of sugar abroad. Of course these jobs wouldn't be lost if Congress eliminated the combination of highly restrictive quotas and tariffs.

Instead of turning things around Congress has made this bad system worse. The recently released Farm Bill proposes to make it that much more difficult for US candy makers and consumers to get access to foreign supplies of sugar. In the end, it is workers and consumers that will pay for this kind of protection offered to such a wealthy few.

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Specifically, the five-year farm bill includes key provisions for farmers and ranchers, including an enhanced farm safety net and provisions to encourage the production of domestic and renewable sources of energy. The bill also includes my open fields legislation to preserve hunting and other outdoor recreation, as well as a country of origin labeling provision.

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