ORLANDO SENTINEL: Don't miss chance to reform the U.S. sugar program

Orlando Sentinel: Written by Editorial Board. April 6, 2018.

When President Trump announced he would slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports last month, critics pointed out he would be putting more jobs at risk among U.S. purchasers of those commodities than the jobs he would be protecting among U.S. producers. That’s bad economic policy.

But so is another, decades-old protectionist policy that also favors one industry at the expense of the broader economy. And this one, the U.S. sugar program, hits closer to home in Florida.

The federal government doesn’t pay taxpayer subsidies directly to sugar growers under the program. Instead, it props up prices for U.S. growers through a series of interventions in the free market, including setting a minimum price for sugar, restricting foreign imports, limiting domestic production and buying up surplus sugar.

U.S. food manufacturers and consumers wind up paying from $2.4 billion to $4 billion a year more for sugar because of the program, according to a 2017 study by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C. think tank. Sugar producers reap the benefits. To keep this sweet deal, Big Sugar has spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress and contributing to the campaigns of members of both parties.

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