Fear of Halloween candy shortage shows importance of domestic sugar production

OPINION:

Most Americans don’t think about the farmers who grow our food or the government agricultural policies that support them – until they can find an item at the grocery store. Sugar is one of the crops grown in the United States and, thanks to these federal policies, is always in stock.

Last month, Hershey made headlines when it quickly backtracked on shocking comments from its CEO Michele Buck during an earnings call. Ms Buck had announced that there would be a shortage of Halloween candy from the company due to supply chain issues, making this Halloween tricks and not treats.


The company quickly clarified, saying the real problem is that their candies are too popular. “We actually expect high single-digit growth for our Halloween and holiday seasons,” a Hershey spokeswoman said. All those sweet candies help boost Hershey’s profits.

Sugar is, of course, an essential ingredient in most sweet treats. The vast majority of the sugar we consume is either grown on sugar cane or sugar beet farms in the United States or refined from raw sugar by American cane sugar refiners.

But confectionery companies don’t want to “buy American” when it comes to sugar. Confectionery companies like Hershey’s have spent years lobbying Congress to weaken US sugar policy and allow foreign sugar producers to flood US markets with subsidized sugar.

Over the years, many conservative groups have made the “end of sugar subsidies” a leap of faith. The guaranteed net effect of weakening US sugar policy would be to drive US sugar cane and sugar beet growers out of business, making the world’s Hersheys increasingly dependent on the whims of unreliable foreign countries. for our sugar.

If Hershey pretends to worry about the sugar supply now, imagine what will happen when they are completely dependent on cheap foreign sugar? Other countries don’t have our best interests in mind and are likely to raise prices or restrict supply once their US competitors are destroyed. Sounds familiar – think about it when filling your gas tank. It would be much harder to produce candy if Hershey was expecting a shipment of sugar from Brazil (remember the bottling of 70 ships in Brazil at the start of the pandemic as Brazil scrambled to export sugar?).

This is exactly what happened in Europe when the EU chose in 2006 to remove support for sugar. A 2019 report on the effects of policies that encourage the dumping of foreign sugar in Europe by Patrick Chatenay states: “The EU’s liberalization of its sugar industry is a lesson in unintended political consequences: a fundamentally competitive industry is threatened by domestic and international market distortions. ”

Here at home, the lesson policymakers should take away in 2023 when considering a new Farm Bill is to vote for policies that support farmers here at home, not government-subsidized foreign growers abroad.

This Halloween, Hershey might be trying to scare consumers into thinking that US sugar policy is to blame for a disappointing Halloween. But the reality is that America’s sugar farmers work hard to supply us with sugar, producing about nine million tons of sugar each year.

America currently enjoys a stable, reliable and affordable supply of sugar thanks to farmers, workers and American sugar policy. Food manufacturers and American families should be grateful and support the federal policies that make this possible.

• The author is president of Americans for Limited Government

Rachel J. Bradford