Supercommittee Looks to Ag Subsidies: Groups

Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 09:19 AM

By Margaret Menge

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Conservative groups in Washington are raising heck about the Supercommittee’s plan to include agricultural subsidies and supports in its recommendations for cutting $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

The National Taxpayers Union and Americans for Prosperity complain that the move to include subsidies in the cost-cutting recommendations would bypass the normal legislative process that was to produce a farm bill next year.

Among their concerns: The Supercommittee, says Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union, is looking to increase crop insurance and also include changes to the dairy program that would likely increase price and income supports for dairy farmers.

But NTU and Americans for Prosperity also point to the sugar program, which costs consumers $2.4 billion a year in higher sugar prices.

“The fact is that Americans pay more for sugar produced in our own country,” says Duane Parde, president of NTU. “Because of this, our sugar-producing goods are much more expensive than those produced with sugar outside of the U.S.”

The federal sugar program consists of a loan program and tariffs imposed on imported sugar that have the effect of guaranteeing American sugar producers 85 percent of the domestic market. They also make it almost impossible for a grower of sugar cane or sugar beets to lose money.

The price of sugar went up at twice the rate of food inflation this year, hitting an all-time high in late summer. The price of domestic sugar is about twice that of sugar on the world market.

Slade O’Brien, the Florida director of Americans for Prosperity, is reaching out to members of Congress from Florida to urge support for eliminating the sugar program altogether.

“These current policies are benefitting a select well-connected few when Congress should be focused on instituting policies that positively impact as many Americans as possible,” he said this week.

The sugar program is renewed every five years when Congress passes a farm bill. The next farm bill is scheduled to be written and passed next spring or summer, though it could be that a version of the Farm Bill is included with the recommendations issued by the Supercommittee.

The 2008 Farm Bill cost more than $300 billion. More than half of this went to the food -stamp program, school lunch program and other food programs aimed at needy women and children. More than $100 billion was spent on commodity programs, which include direct payments to farmers.




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