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POLITICS

If we let in too much sugar, we’ll run out of sugar, industry says

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Agriculture,Fiscal Policy,Sugar Industry

Congressional Quarterly reports:

the American Sugar Alliance, a trade group for the sugar industry, is taking no chances. In a statement, the group said it delivered replicas of 1940s, World War II-era sugar rationing coupons to Senate offices.

If you’ve been following sugar policy, this might make zero sense to you, because the American Sugar Alliance has been lobbying to keep out foreign sugar. Federal law sets strict quotas on the amount of sugar we can import from various countries. The result is a U.S. sugar price much higher than the world sugar price. As Sallie James at Cato puts it:

Actually, sugar is already rationed already in this country. The USDA tightly controls the domestic supply of sugar…. These interventions cost American sugar consumers and sugar-using industries billions of dollars a year through higher-than-world-average sugar prices.

But the industry’s argument boils down to this: If we let in more foreign sugar, domestic sugar production might dry up, because prices will drop to points that U.S. growers cannot compete with. Then we will be dependent on foreign sugar. And if Brazil decides to cut us off — or if war cuts off shipping lanes with Brazil — then we’ll all be drinking our coffee unsweetened.

Of course, high sugar prices have, to date, driven us to use alternative sweeteners, like corn syrup. I don’t see why we would opt for sugar rationing in some future disruption rather than doing what most food producers have done in response to the government-created sugar shortages of the past few decades: find alternatives.

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