(Chuck Muth) – The most outspoken opponents of the U.S. sugar program are of a mind that it doesn’t matter if the U.S. is flooded with cheap, subsidized imports of sugar that could cripple or even destroy the domestic sugar producing industry. Under the assumption that there will always be plenty of cheap, subsidized foreign sugar to import, these critics don’t care.
But everyone else should. Here’s why…
Two weeks ago, Australia – a large producer of sugar cane – was slammed by cyclone Ita, a Category 4 storm that wrecked havoc on the nation’s economy, particularly its agricultural sector, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage.
Although The Guardian reports “there was no loss of life or serious injury,” the storm “flattened canefields” and the damage “is expected to be felt in consumers’ hip pockets as demand begins to outstrip supply and pushes up prices.”
Meanwhile, a different type of natural disaster, yet no less serious, is underway in Brazil.
According to Bloomberg.com, the Center South region of the nation – “the world’s largest sugar producing region” – is suffering from a severe drought. “Crops in the Center South,” Bloomberg reports, “faced the driest and hottest summer in 70 years.”
As such, sugar output from the South American nation is expected to shrink by more than 5 percent. In response, reports Leslie Joseph of the Wall Street Journal, “Raw sugar futures rose to the highest level in nearly four weeks.”
“The estimates underlined market expectations that Brazil’s worst drought in decades damaged the cane while it was developing,” the Journal continued. “This could affect global supplies because Brazil produces and exports more sugar than any other country.”
Now consider how this tag-team of natural disasters in Australia and Brazil would have affected prices in the United States if we didn’t have our own domestic sugar industry.
Sure, the lure of cheap, subsidized imported sugar is strong and attractive today. But even Congress has no control over Mother Nature. Is it really in our nation’s national security interest to rely on countries such as Brazil, India, Thailand and Australia for sugar the way we continue to rely on OPEC for oil?
The only way to protect U.S. national interests, as well as the interests of consumers, is to assure a healthy U.S. sugar industry that competes globally with other nations on a level playing field with no government subsidies distorting the market. Anything less is as risky as predicting the weather.
(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach)