WASHINGTON POST: The problems in the farm bill go way beyond sugar

Washington Post: Written by Editorial Board. May 13, 2018.

WHEN MOST people think of discrimination in the United States, they correctly think of its victims as members of racial minorities, or women, or people with disabilities. The American Sugar Alliance, however, applies the concept more broadly than that, to encompass even large-scale cane growers. Or so it appears from the advertising campaign the lobbying group has just launched, which casts this class of business operators among the marginalized. A full-page ad in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal feature d a picture of two Louisiana sugar planters and the words: “Excluding us from loans available to other crops isn’t ‘modest reform,’ it’s discriminatory. Don’t cut sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill. Oppose harmful amendments.”

What’s really going on here? As it does every half-decade or so, the House of Representatives is debating the legislative monstrosity known as the farm bill, a compendium of subsidies for commodity producers whose redeeming feature is that most of it, in dollar terms, supports separate nutritional programs for the poor. (These seemingly unrelated matters get bundled in one bill because of a political bargain between the representatives of urban consumers and rural producers, but that’s another story.) And once again, reformers are targeting the mix of import controls, price targets and other market interventions that essentially try to guarantee profitability for cane growers in the Deep South and sugar-beet producers in the Great Plains.

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