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Nation's Largest Taxpayer Group Joins Broad-Based Coalition to Call for an End to the Federal Sugar Program
For Immediate Release March 15, 2005
(Washington, DC) -- Sugar producers have used their political influence in Washington to exploit taxpayers and consumers for decades, and now is the time for Congress to muster the courage to do away with the federal sugar program, according to the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The 350,000-member citizen group joined organizations from across the political spectrum at a Sugar Reform Working Group news conference today to unveil an open letter to the President and Congress calling for an end to "destructive [sugar] policy."
"The Bush Administration has proposed moderate agricultural reforms in its budget and has called for liberalization of trade in its international negotiations," said NTU Economic Policy Analyst Tad DeHaven. "Clearing away the antiquated and sticky web of sugar subsidies, tariffs, and price supports will be a key test of whether Washington is willing to take these principles to the next level."
In addition to adding his name to the list of signatories on the Sugar Reform Working Group's statement, last week DeHaven sent an open letter to Congress outlining NTU's specific objections to current sugar policy. "[T]he sugar program continues to be an obstacle to freer trade and ultimately economic and societal well-being," DeHaven wrote. "Consumers pay an extra $2 billion-plus annually because domestic producers are effectively shielded from foreign competition."
The NTU letter noted that intensive lobbying by "Big Sugar" inflicts harm on other industries as well; for example, the recent free trade agreement with Australia contained a carve-out for sugar producers in exchange for other U.S. trade concessions. According to DeHaven, the Central America Free Trade Agreement has also been threatened because the sugar lobby is enraged over the increased sugar market access the agreement grants to participating countries -- approximately 1.2 percent of current U.S. sugar consumption, or about one and one-half teaspoons per week, per American.
DeHaven was quick to point out the direct cost to taxpayers as well, including staffing the bureaucracy necessary to run the program, storing surplus sugar in government warehouses (an estimated $1 million per month), and tweaking bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in order to satisfy the whims of the sugar industry. "These costs, combined with the de facto tax on consumers and industries from federally sanctioned protectionism, constitute the ingredients to a bitter pill that American taxpayers can no longer stomach -- and politicians can no longer ignore," DeHaven concluded.
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. Note: For NTU's letter and more information on the group's agricultural policy work, visit www.ntu.org.