One of the lead editorials of the New York Times went after Big Sugar, which has its hands out waiting to grab even more goodies from Uncle Sam in this year’s farm bill.
Under the current system, the government guarantees a price floor for sugar and limits the sugar supply — placing quotas on domestic production and quotas and tariffs to limit imports. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, sugar supports cost American consumers — who pay double the average world price — more than $1.5 billion a year. The system also bars farmers in some of the poorest countries of the world from selling their sugar here.
The North American Free Trade Agreement is about to topple this cozy arrangement. Next year, Mexican sugar will be allowed to enter the United States free of any quotas or duties, threatening a flood of imports. Rather than taking the opportunity to untangle the sugar program in this year’s farm bill, Congress has decided to bolster the old system.
Both the House bill, which was passed in July, and the Senate version, which could be voted on as early as this week, guarantee that the government will buy from American farmers an amount of sugar equivalent to 85 percent of domestic consumption — regardless of how much comes in from abroad. To add insult to injury, both also increase the longstanding price guarantee for sugar.
As long as the prices stay up on sugar, the more manufacturers will turn to high-fructose corn syrup. The more HFCS people get, the more fructose they consume, the more fructose they consume, the worse their insulin resistance and all that follows. This is not to say that plain old sugar is a health food because it’s certainly not. In fact sucrose (table sugar) provides almost as much fructose as HFCS, so it is probematic as well. But for those who consume huge amounts of sugar – I’m thinking teenagers here with their propensity to drink huge amounts of HFCS-sweetened soft drinks – the difference between the amount of fructose in HFCS and that in sugar add up to pretty large numbers.
It’s good to see that the relatively newly elected Democratic Congress is conducting business as usual, lapping up Big Sugar’s $3 million handout and seeing to it that the status quo is maintained. Too bad we get the trick while Big Sugar gets the treat.