SUN SENTINEL: Help Florida, nation: Reform sugar program

Sun Sentinel: Written by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. May 10, 2018.

Congress must write a new farm bill this year, so Congress finally can reform the sugar program that enriches a few growers in Florida, but keeps prices artificially high for everyone else.

Today’s program includes price supports, limits on how much each producer can sell and import quotas. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report called it “singular among major agricultural commodity programs.”

Florida and Louisiana dominate the domestic sugarcane market, producing almost 90 percent of the crop. Three-fourths of sugarcane in Florida is grown in Palm Beach County south of Lake Okeechobee, with the rest in neighboring Hendry County. Two companies — West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals and Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar — dominate production.

Though the government is supposed to operate the sugar program at no cost to taxpayers, that doesn’t always happen. The Department of Agriculture must buy unused sugar — through price support loans — and in 2013 the department lost $280 million.

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