By Bryan Riley, National Taxpayers Union
The United States would never allow China to blockade U.S. ports, restricting imports and doubling the cost of food.
Congress should stand just as strong against domestic barriers that inflate food prices, starting with the sugar program. Americans currently pay more than twice the world price for sugar – not because of a Chinese blockade, but because of self-destructive domestic barriers.
Figure 1: U.S. vs. World Refined Sugar Prices
The sugar program maintains inflated sugar prices by strictly controlling sugar imports. These inflated prices help a relatively tiny handful of sugar producers at the expense of just about every American worker.
According to a study prepared for the American Sugar Alliance, the sugar industry directly accounts for just 37,767 jobs. Adding their estimates for indirect and induced employment, the industry supports a total of 151,238 jobs. Assuming that number is accurate, the sugar industry accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of U.S. employment. The remaining 99.9 percent of American workers pay inflated prices to support these jobs.
The American Sugar Alliance calls the sugar program a no-cost success story. That alone should be enough to get them laughed out of any congressional office. A policy that doubles the cost of sugar is obviously not “no-cost.”
Congress should enact reforms to reduce the burden the sugar program imposes on American taxpayers, consumers, and manufacturers. Americans would never allow China to do this to us. We should no longer do it to ourselves. Congress should ease the sugar blockade.
Bryan Riley is Director of National Taxpayers Union’s Free Trade Initiative.