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A Sweeter Farm Bill For Sugar?

POSTED: 03:58 PM ET, 01/18/2008 by The Editors

As Congress gets set to finalize a farm bill, lobbyists for the U.S. sugar industry are working behind the scenes to sweeten the legislation, reports Dan Morgan.

The lobbyists want to attach a proposed U.S.-Mexican side agreement that would set limits on sugar trade between the two countries and protect U.S. cane and beet growers from a feared glut of Mexican sugar. The restrictive provision was not included in either the House or Senate versions of the farm bill passed last year. Adding it to a final, compromise version could provide new fodder for a threatened presidential veto, administration officials warned.

Unrestricted sugar trade between the U.S. and Mexico began Jan. 1 under a landmark provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"This is way bigger than sugar," said Acting Secretary of Agriculture Charles Conner during a meeting Thursday with Washington Post editors and reporters. Conner said it could lead to an unraveling of NAFTA , with Mexico demanding restrictions on U.S. exports of pork, poultry and other commodities.

The draft U.S.-Mexican agreement would revert to quotas that could be lifted only when shortages were declared. Jack Roney, director of economics for the American Sugar Alliance, told Congressional Quarterly it would help prevent sugar gluts in both countries and avoid the headache of trade litigation.

U.S. sugar groups, which contribute heavily to congressional campaigns, have proved skilled at getting their way. House and Senate versions of the farm bill already contain important concessions, including higher support prices and guarantees that domestic growers will keep 85 percent of the U.S. market.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who will chair House-Senate farm bill negotiations, represents the nation's largest sugar beet growing district. But the top Senate Republican in the negotiations, Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), represents a major Savannah refinery that could be hurt by the proposed agreement, sources said.

For more on the politics behind farm subsidies, see The Post's Harvesting Cash series.

--Dan Morgan

By The Editors |  January 18, 2008; 3:58 PM ET Harvesting Cash
Previous: Scrutiny of Veterans Charity | Next: Landrieu Opens Files on Schools Earmark

Comments

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One of the Republican candidates should use this as an example of special interests gone wrong. They should explain how free trade in sugar would reduce prices for American and Mexican consumers. They should explain how free trade represents the best interest of the community as a whole and how they will fight for the communities best interests. Farm subsidies and trade restrictions are bad policy. The candidates should clarify their opinions on these issues.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 6:16 PM

if congress, corporations, and the american people truly believed in capitalism -- there would be ZERO tax deductions, i.e. ZERO TAX INCENTIVES for corporations.

The term TAX INCENTIVES for corporations means -- corporations get CORPORATE WELFARE (which is NOT CAPITALISM), and the taxpayers subsidize their particular business or industry.

TAX INCENTIVES = WELFARE

When will our citizens learn the language of economics.

Kind regards,

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