Capitol Hill has been blanketed by propaganda in recent weeks from a fancy grasstops coalition comprised of the same-old-same-old opponents of sugar policy. After years of lopsided legislative defeats, the Sweetener Users Association (SUA) and National Confectioners Association (NCA) appear to have opted for a rebranding and renaming effort.
So what should be made of this newly energized Coalition for Sugar Reform? Not a lot considering that the coalition, which appears to be solely funded by large food manufacturers seeking to depress farmers’ prices, doesn’t stand behind its own product. Check out this warning from the group’s website.
“There may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information obtained through your use of this Site…Moreover, SUA does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other information displayed, uploaded, downloaded or distributed through this website.”
And the “coalition” has made good use of this license to misinform. Here are some examples from just the past two months:
· “The current U.S. sugar program [is] driving consumer prices up.” – April 17
The food manufacturers are implying that if they paid farmers less for sugar then food prices would fall and stores would charge less for bagged sugar. In reality, farmers’ prices have fallen 15 percent since the summer of 2010, yet the price of sweetened products and sugar at the grocery store has increased over that same period…right along with the profits of food makers and grocers.
· “Washington’s been making mandatory purchases of ‘surplus’ sugar and reselling it — at a loss — to ethanol plants since 2008.” – April 17
Not only does the characterization of sugar “surpluses” directly contradict food manufacturers’ previous statements, but publicly available USDA data shows that the government has not made any of the described purchases.
· “The current U.S. sugar program is costing…thousands of jobs each year.” – April 3
The food manufacturers are still using the tired, disproven theory of candy makers leaving the U.S. for other countries in search of cheap sugar. However, since sugar policy took hold in 2008, production of candy in the United States has increased 2.5 percent, according to U.S. Census data. Not to mention, NCA has openly boasted about its industry’s high profit margin, record sales, recession resistance, and recent growth.
· “Canada is reaping the sweet benefits of the outdated U.S. sugar program.” – March 13
The food manufacturers would lead people to believe sugar prices are cheaper in Canada. According to data from the U.S. and Canadian governments, U.S. grocery shoppers are currently paying 4 cents per pound less for sugar than their Canadian counterparts.
Yes, there are a lot of inaccuracies on the site. But what about the omissions they mentioned in that earlier disclaimer? There are too many to count but these seemed particularly important.
· The USDA projects that current no-cost sugar policy will remain no cost to taxpayers through at least 2022.
· These same food makers lobbied for a sugar subsidy plan during the 2008 Farm Bill that would have cost taxpayers an estimated $1.3 billion per year.
· Thanks to U.S. sugar policy, American companies didn’t suffer in 2010 and 2011 from severe global sugar shortages like food manufacturers in many other developed countries.
· U.S. sugar is so inexpensive you can still walk into any restaurant in the country and pick up packets for free.
Considering these food makers’ notorious track records of fuzzy math, double talk, and misrepresentation of market realities, you might be better off getting your sugar news from a source that stands behind its data.