While Louisiana was celebrating Mardi Gras last week, a group of Bayou State sugarcane farmers and millers were trekking to Washington D.C. to educate government lawmakers about America’s no-cost sugar policy.
A second wave of cane farmers are making the trip to Capitol Hill today, said Jim Simon, manager of the American Sugar Cane League.
Simon said state cane farmers along with others from Florida and Texas teamed up with midwestern sugar beet growers to visit Capitol Hill during the carnival season. He said Louisiana produces enough sugar to supply the sweetener needs for more than 65 million Americans.
Stephen Simoneaux, a 33-year-old cane farmer from Assumption Parish said it’s important for Congressional leaders to hear about cane farming from cane farmers. It was his third trip to Washington to meet with policymakers.
“We love Mardi Gras but it’s more important to come here to deliver our message in person,” Simoneaux said. “My family has worked hard for generations to grow sugarcane.”
“Cane farming means long days, rain or shine, with a tremendous expense to make sure America has a safe supply of sugar at a fair price. I would like my kids to continue farming but we must make sure our voice is heard in Washington. I firmly believe that if farm policy critics are successful in destabilizing U.S. no-cost sugar policy and open our markets to subsidized foreign sugar, our farm will not survive.”
Simon said big sugar users would have you believe that Americans pay more for sugar than other developed countries but that’s just not so.
“That’s a myth the candy makers try to sell to Congress,” Simon said. “Consumer surveys show that 63 percent of Americans believe sugar is not expensive at all or the right price. Fewer than two in 10 consumers believe sugar is priced too high.”
Simon said the new survey, conducted by the Dynata public research company at the end of January 2020, found that the average consumer believes sugar producers receive one dollar for every pound of sugar they produce.
“In reality, the price Louisiana cane farmers receive is significantly lower,” Simon said. “The wholesale sugar price averaged 36 cents for a pound of refined sugar in 2019 and sugar producers only receive about half of that 36 cents, which is supposed to cover all their expenses.”
In addition, Simon said, a majority of Americans are astonished when they learn that sugar producers receive only two cents on a dollar candy bar.
“Louisiana cane farmers and all the other sugar producers only get a small share of the cost of all sugar-sweetened products,” Simon said. “But that’s how the market works so we need to make sure sugar farm policy is fair.”
Simoneaux said the current sugar policy is an easy sell to Congress because it costs nothing.
“U.S. sugar policy is a win for taxpayers, too, as it’s designed to cost nothing,” Simoneaux said. “Listen, we had a terrible crop last year and it’s not easy leaving the farm to come up to talk to Congress, but it’s important that we take this message directly to the national lawmakers.”
Simoneaux said the Louisiana sugar industry creates more than 16,000 jobs in the state by the entire American sugar industry generates 142,000 jobs across more than 20 states.
“Keep in mind that American sugar is produced under some of the most stringent environmental and labor practices and that alone should make our sugar the only sustainable alternative to subsidized foreign sugar,” he said.
This comprehensive nationwide survey of American consumers was conducted January 29-31. Review full survey results here.
For more information about the American Sugar Alliance visit www.sugaralliance.org.