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A sweet idea: Shaheen attacks sugar subsidies

EDITORIAL
November 11. 2017 3:42PM

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Give Sen. Jeanne Shaheen points for persistence. Her Senate colleagues have shown little appetite for eliminating subsidies to the sugar industry, but she keeps trying.

Shaheen has once again joined with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey to introduce legislation cutting back the complicated and costly federal programs that not only drain the federal treasury, but provide incentives to pump high fructose corn syrup into our food.

Support for the sugar program on Capitol Hill shows why it is so hard to repeal subsidies and other special treatment once Congress starts handing out the goodies. Sugar farmers argue that taking away their federal favors will put many of them out of business. They gain far more from the status quo than any individual stands to gain from sugar reform.

But aggregating the cost to all taxpayers adds up to $4 billion a year, without even considering the long-term costs of all the extra empty calories.

Ending sugar subsidies is one step in reforming America's antiquated agriculture policy. Another is fixing the crop insurance program.

Farmers who lose a crop currently get reimbursed based on the harvest prices higher than when they purchased the insurance, with taxpayers picking up the difference.

Shaheen has also signed on to a bipartisan bill named the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act, which she says will save taxpayers $21 billion in hidden agricultural subsidies over the next ten years.

Farmers would still have access to crop insurance, but would have to pay the full premium.

Getting rid of the layers of subsidies built into U.S. agricultural policy would remove the perverse incentives farmers have to overproduce corn and other staple crops. This would open up farmland for fruits and vegetables, bringing down produce prices.

Carving back subsidies would result in a bounty for taxpayers, the environment, and even our diets.


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