Federal sugar policy drives up the price of sugar, costs American jobs, hits American families’ pocket books, all to benefit a few well-connected sugar producers. The family controlling much of Florida’s cane sugar is the Fanjuls. Pepe Fanjul and his son were early backers of Marco Rubio, and they have hosted a handful of fundraisers for the conservative freshman senator.
Rubio has some Tea Party credentials, having defeated GOP establishment moderate Charlie Crist in 2010. All the other Tea Partyish freshmen — Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, and Ron Johnson – voted last week to kill the sugar program, as did most conservative Senators. Rubio, however, voted to save the sugar program, which artificially inflates the sugar price through protectionist tariffs and sweet government loans.
For my Monday column on the sugar program, I called and emailed Rubio’s office looking for an explanation. Rubio was busy with a book launch and questions about Obama’s immigration policy, and he never got back to me. But today on CNBC, he explained his vote to protect the corporate welfare policy. Rubio used the same sort of argument he implicitly rejected regarding the Export-Import Bank: we can’t stop our subsidies until other countries stop theirs.
In this case, other industries subsidize sugar production and export, and so our domestic sugar industry is at a disadvantage unless we limit sugar imports.
“If you do it unilaterally, you’re going to wipe out your agricultural industry,” he said. Watch the video here.