Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: End the sweet deal for Big Sugar

If there is a poster child for what is wrong with U.S. farm policy, it's sugar. Through political muscle and campaign cash, the sugar beet and cane producers have had their way over the best interests of consumers, taxpayers, domestic job creation, trade policy and the Everglades. As Congress reopens negotiations on the farm bill and the federal budget, here's one easy way to reduce government, save money and help Americans: Get government out of the business of propping up sugar growers.

The New York Times recently highlighted the absurdity of the U.S. sugar program, a complex system of tariffs, quotas and government buybacks born in the mid 1970s. Candymakers are continuing to flee the country to chase lower sugar costs elsewhere. Many have landed in Canada, where sugar costs half as much, or Mexico, where it costs about a third less. The U.S. Commerce Department estimated in 2006 the sugar program had cost three jobs in the domestic food manufacturing industry for every single sugar-producing job it saved. But the insult is more than lost American jobs. Often foreign manufacturers can import their candies to the United States and still charge a lower price than American-made producers who are paying twice as much for sugar.

Rarely can one government program insult so many for the benefit of so few: an estimated 5,000 large sugar producers. This year a bumper crop of sugar production means taxpayers will spend at least $300 million buying excess sugar to sell at a loss for use as ethanol, or backstopping industry loans. Yet consumers will continue to shell out higher prices than necessary for foods made in America using sugar — an estimated $9 more annually for each person, according to North Carolina State University economist Michael K. Wohlgenant. The high prices also have had another side effect on food manufacturing: The rise of sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup now under fresh scrutiny as contributors to America's obesity epidemic.

The foolishness of the sugar subsidies isn't limited to food manufacturing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs reforms in part because American tariffs have damaged other trade negotiations with Australia and other countries.

All of that is on top of the environmental havoc wrought by sugar on one of Florida's primary sources of water, the Everglades. Just last year, Gov. Rick Scott announced taxpayers would spend another $880 million to clean up water south of sugar farms. State and federal taxpayers have spent $4 billion to try to restore the Everglades' water flow decades after it was cleared in another government program to help agribusiness.

How do sugar producers — many of whom actually have international sugar holdings elsewhere — continue to win? Money. In the 2012 cycle, American Crystal Sugar, a co-op representing beet farmers, doled out $2.2 million to federal candidates and spent $2 million on lobbyists. That doesn't include millions more contributed by other sugar producers, including Florida's cane growers.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (along with much of the Florida delegation) has been among the beneficiaries of the sugar industry's largesse. Now he sits on the bipartisan conference committee looking to strike a budget deal. He should offer a free-market solution. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio refused to vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling because of his concerns about reducing the federal deficit. He should back up his rhetoric by pushing to end the sugar subsidies. Until lawmakers stand up to Big Sugar, taxpayers will keep propping up the industry, paying more for food and then paying to clean up the environmental mess left behind.

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Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18