Congressman Blumenauer Pushes for a Reduction in Harmful Sugar Subsidies

Video Clip

Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 3 minutes.

The United States sugar program is an archaic remnant of a Depression-era policy to artificially raise prices of sugar. Today, it harms American companies and consumers, while preventing developing nations from competing in the global market place. Everybody pays. U.S. consumers alone paid an additional 1 to $2 billion directly, and much more indirectly.

This is not a program that benefits our average family farmer. Under the 2002 farm bill, the sugar program has 42 percent of the sugar benefits going to the most profitable 1 percent of large corporate sugar farmers. This policy weakens our credibility for trade liberalization as it continues protection of sugar policies that restrict trade. These continuing subsidies are harming progress in the current Doha Round, a key component of which is to reduce unnecessary agricultural subsidies worldwide.

We saw an example in the discussion of the Australian Free Trade Agreement where, to keep our outrageous sugar subsidies in place, the United States acceded to Australia's position on maintaining monopolies for the export of wheat, barley and rice, therefore closing off export opportunities to United States farmers producing these crops.

It is, I think, outrageous in current American free trade CAFTA, where we are watching the door barely open over the next 15 years. If it were to pass, these countries would be able to export only 1.7 percent of the U.S. consumption.

This policy of supporting high-cost producers and limiting imports through quotas deprives more low, cost-efficient producers in developing nations. These protectionist policies in developed countries have deprived poor, desperately poor countries like Ethiopia, Mozambique and Malawi of $238 million in sales since 2001.

The current U.S. sugar program emphasis on overproduction has caused environmental degradation in environmentally sensitive areas, particularly the Florida Everglades and the Mississippi Delta wetlands. The down payment on cleaning up the Everglades that are significantly damaged by sugar production is nearly $8 billion. 

Mr. Chairman, the impact on jobs in the United States is also unfortunate. The number of employees in sugar-using industries, an estimated 724,000 jobs, is 12 times the 61,000 sugar production jobs in the United States. It produces a loss of jobs as sugar-intensive industries like confectionery move to Canada and other low-cost areas. This is an opportunity today to correct that.

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