Sweetener users to emphasize manufacturing workers
March 21, 2018
In an apparent attempt to tie their industry to President Donald Trump's interest in manufacturing, the Sweeteners Users Association, the National Confectioners Association and their allies are planning to emphasize the impact of the sugar program on manufacturing workers in their campaign for changes to the sugar program in the next farm bill.
In a call to reporters, National Confectioners Association President and CEO John Downs said the Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy wants to connect family farmers and manufacturing workers but "the family farmer is held in a little higher esteem."
Other sweetener user officials have said that the American Sugar Alliance, which represents the cane and beet growers, has done a good job of creating a positive image of sugar growers as family farmers, even though some of them such as the Fanjul family in Florida have large operations.
Today Downs said that the sugar program, which sets floor prices for sugar and restricts imports, "helps just a very few large co-ops and sugar processors."
Sweetener Users Association President Rick Pasco said that the elements of the sugar program "work together to inflate prices and put American small business and food manufacturers at a disadvantage."
On the call, Kirk Vashaw, the president and CEO of Spangler Candy in Bryan, Ohio, said that people who graduate from high school can get a job at his company starting at $46,000 per year and making as much as $70,000 plus overtime within one year.
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"If you work at our company, you are in the middle class," he said.
But Vashaw said his company has managed to stay in business by moving half of its candy cane operations to Mexico. Ingredients are the main driver in the candy business and the high cost of sugar in the United States is the reason that the company has moved some operations to Mexico, he said.
"This is government price-fixing — we don't think there should be price fixing in the sugar market," Vashaw said. "Let our company buy sugar on the free market and the jobs will come back from Mexico in five years."
Mike Goscinski, director of government relations for the American Bakers Association, said that wholesale baking companies have to be concerned about input costs because "baking is a science that consists of flour, sugar, water and yeast."
Downs and Pasco said the alliance, which consists of a large number of industry, taxpayer and business groups, supports the Sugar Policy Modernization Act (S 2086) introduced in the Senate by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and a companion House version (HR 4265) introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Danny Davis, D-Ill.
Downs said the bills would address the "tangled mess" of sugar policy, including marketing allotments and import quotas, while Pasco emphasized the bill would give the Agriculture secretary more discretion in the management of the program and protect taxpayers from "hidden" costs.
Downs said he considers the bills to be "a common sense alternative in terms of modest reforms and modernization without hurting or blowing up the safety net."
The American Sugar Alliance has said that the proposal would make the sugar program ineffective and force growers out of business.
Informed about the Sweetener Users' comments, Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the sugar growers, said, "Farmers and factory workers alike should be held in high esteem, as they are the backbone of this country and are equally important to its success."
"That's why it is so strange that multinational food companies are pushing legislation to bankrupt America's sugar farmers and outsource manufacturing jobs from U.S. sugar factories," Hayes said.
"The no-cost sugar policy in place now is essential to helping farmers weather the current financial storm, and it has clearly worked for confectioners, which have announced dozens of expansion projects here in the United States in recent years."