(Washington, DC) - "Billions for Sugar Subsidies, and Not One Peep for Taxpayers!" That's the message staff members from the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) hand-delivered to Capitol Hill offices today - accompanied, of course, by boxes of the popular bird-shaped marshmallow candies bearing the famous trade name (Peeps®). The effort was intended to call attention, and drive attendance, to a briefing held later in the day by the Sugar Reform Alliance, consisting of groups across the political spectrum that seek alternatives to the costly federal support for sugar growers in the U.S.
"Through a combination of quotas, tariffs, loan programs, and marketing allotments, the federal government allows powerful sugar interests to reap sweet profits while leaving taxpayers and consumers with truly sour bills," said NTU Government Affairs Manager Kristina Rasmussen.
Noting that federal policies effectively shield domestic producers from foreign competition, Rasmussen said the $2 billion in consumer costs associated with sugar price controls and import restrictions amount to "a defacto tax on every American who buys food and beverages containing sugar." However, she also pointed out that there are direct taxpayer liabilities from federal meddling in sugar markets, including government storage of commodity surpluses, bureaucratic administration of price supports, and complex trade negotiating costs.
Rasmussen also observed that for every person employed in growing and producing sugar in the U.S., there were 10 people employed in sweetener-using industries. But, because of subsidies and tariffs, U.S. sugar sold within our borders is priced almost twice as high as the world market offers. This huge overhead is one reason why many firms like candymakers have either shut down completely or moved overseas - taking with them good American jobs that ought to stay here. "When defenders of this program say that the pain to consumers is offset by the gain to our farmers, they're ignoring the human toll on other Americans whose very livelihoods depend on affordable sugar," she said.
Besides NTU, participants in the Sugar Reform Alliance include Citizens Against Government Waste, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the Foundation for Democracy in Africa, and Oxfam America. NTU supports many proposals put forth by Representative Jeff Flake and other members of Congress's Sugar Reform caucus, including a phase-out of price supports and a relaxation of trade restrictions on sugar. Such changes could result in an annual net welfare gain of over $1 billion annually to the United States.
"As Members of Congress and the Bush Administration prepare to draft and debate the next Farm Bill, it's important for them to remember that government sugar policy affects all Americans, not only farmers but also taxpayers, consumers, and workers," Rasmussen concluded. "Now is the time for Washington to bring sugar policy out of the dark ages and into the modern marketplace."
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. Note: For more information on NTU's agricultural policy work, visit www.ntu.org.