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Shaheen vs. sugar: The senator's good fight

February 16. 2013 2:53AM

If U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen succeeds in reforming the absurd and costly U.S. sugar subsidy regime, Americans will save billions of dollars on sugar and sweetened foods and beverages. She came close two years ago, and everyone should hope her new effort succeeds.<br/><br/>
Last Thursday, on Valentine's Day, Shaheen introduced a new version of her bill, written with Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Il, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to reduce federal price supports for U.S. sugar producers. In the past, Shaheen has tried to end the price supports entirely. This bill does not go that far, unfortunately, but it probably has a better chance of passing because of that.

The federal government has developed a crazy system of regulations and subsidies that artificially inflate the price of sugar sold in the United States. In the 30 years from 1982 to 2012, the average price of sugar in the USA was more than twice the world price (29.1 cents vs. 14.4 cents per pound), University of Michigan economist Mark Perry noted in an analysis for the American Enterprise institute last week.

Last year alone, the price supports cost U.S. consumers $3 billion.

The protections supposedly save jobs in the sugar industry. But a 2006 U.S. Commerce Department study concluded that "(f)or each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost."

That is, to protect a handful of major sugar producers, the government hurts candy makers like Lindt in Stratham, as well as every U.S. consumer who buys anything containing sugar.

Shaheen has taken the lead in the Senate in fighting these subsidies.

Though she continues to support other wasteful subsidy programs, such as those for "green energy," she deserves credit for coming to the aid of Lindt and American consumers by going after the unjustifiable sugar price supports.

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