Sugar-industry-backed senators urge no action on high sugar prices – Sludge

A dozen U.S. senators, including major recipients of sugar industry donations, recently wrote to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him not to change the federal government’s support system for sugar prices. , even as food prices rise at rates not seen since the 1970s.

“It is imperative that the USDA not make changes that would create a glut in the U.S. market and crash prices below producers’ costs of production,” the letter, led by Sen. John Hoeven (RN.D) reads. .).

Hoeven sent the letter just days after his legislative correspondent attended a sugar industry lobbying retreat in Fargo, North Dakota called “Sugar 101: The Industry AZ.”

The letter is likely a response to a letter Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.) sent Vilsack late last month. Shaheen’s letter urges Vilsack to take steps “to improve the domestic supply of sugar and help reduce the cost of food and beverage products for American consumers.” Specifically, Shaheen is calling on Vilsack to increase transparency around its sugar quota adjustment policies and establish new policies around what constitutes “reasonable prices,” among other things.

For decades, the U.S. government has guaranteed a minimum price to U.S. sugar farmers through a combination of non-recourse price support loans that allow farmers to repay the government in sugar, import quotas, and direct purchases of crops, which he sells to ethanol manufacturers. The program is designed so that there is no net cost to the government, but the higher sugar prices it supports lead to more expensive processed foods, so consumers end up paying the invoice. According to economist and American Enterprise Institute contributor Michael Wohlgenant, the policies cost consumers about $2.4 billion a year.

The US sugar program is addressed in the Farm Bill, and Vilsack’s power to make major changes to sugar subsidy policies without an act of Congress is limited, which Shaheen acknowledged in his letter.

Among the co-signers of Hoeven’s letter are many of the main beneficiaries of the sugar industry’s contributions to the Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose state is home to several sugarcane companies, signed Hoeven’s letter and is the Senate’s top recipient of sugarcane industry money and sugar beet of all time, according to data from OpenSecrets. Rubio raised $244,606 in campaign contributions from the sugar industry during his career. The second-biggest Senate sugar money recipient, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), also signed Hoeven’s letter. Stabenow received $233,289 from the sugar industry during his career. She is chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

On average, the 12 senators who signed Hoeven’s letter received $108,880 from the sugar cane and sugar beet industry during their careers, more than double the $51,092 the average member of the Senate received, according to Sludge’s analysis of OpenSecrets data.

From August 2021 to August 2022, the price of grains and baked goods, a food category particularly high in sugar, rose 16.4%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. No other food category tracked by the Consumer Price Index has seen such a significant increase over this period.

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Rachel J. Bradford