Senator Jeanne Shaheen tried to end corporate welfare for the sugar-growers
Nutritionally, sugar is one of the least healthy foods. Indeed, the relentless rise in consumption of sugar and its corn-based substitutes is one reason Americans have so many costly weight and health problems.
But, in fact, sugar is very healthy to a small business segment: about 5,000 growers of sugar cane and sugar beets who, thanks to an unusual corporate welfare arrangement, reap more than a $1 billion annually in benefits.
The arrangement, which limits imports and sets price floors, is so outrageous that it drove a bunch of Republican and Democratic senators into — get this — a bipartisan effort to get rid of the sugar subsidy in the new farm bill. New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was one of the lead figures in the drive to end the protection.
We say "was" because the effort failed in the Senate, due to a bipartisan grouping on the other side. That leaves the domestic sugar growing industry as the only remaining beneficiary of a farm subsidy, unless the House sees otherwise.
The sugar industry welfare arrangement, which was introduced in 1934, includes price supports and import restrictions. It's done its job — the industry is on sound footing — and it should makes no sense at a time when some government coddling of other established industries is drawing to a close.
The sweet deal for sugar growers is not just a government budget item; it's also a drain on domestic consumers, who pay about 50 percent more for sugar than people and businesses in other countries. A recent study by Iowa State University shows that eliminating the government's sugar program could save American consumers $4 billion per year.
So, why did Shaheen's farm bill amendment, which was also supported by New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, fail last week? Look to another set of numbers, these compiled by Open Secrets, a tracker of campaign donations. The organization found that this year alone the sugar growing and processing industries donated more that $2 million to politicians. (Here's its report www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind>;A1200). The money appears to have been well spent.