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The Latest in Big Candy v. Big Sugar: Spoonful of Sugar? Try a Truckload.

A mountain of raw sugar is stored in a warehouse at the Rio Grande Valley Sugar Mill in Santa Rosa, Texas.(AP Photo/Joe Hermosa)

photo of Elahe Izadi
November 19, 2012

Big Sugar and Big Candy are continuing their lobbying beef over the federal government's sugar program, and now a sweet -- and snarky -- gift is being offered as part of the fight.

Sugar farmers and the candy industry disagree over whether federal price supports are needed for sugar production. Big sugar takes issue with big candy's characterization of there being a sugar shortage, citing USDA estimates of surplus sugar in the American market.

The USDA's latest 2013 forecast projects increased domestic sugar production, but since 1982, American sugar prices have been well above global prices because of the federal supports.

To highlight their point, United Sugars Corporation farmers have dispatched a truck containing 20 tons of sugar to remain on standby for delivery to top candy lobbyist Larry Graham.

"Simply put, America is awash in surplus sugar right now and prices are plummeting as a result," a letter from USC to Graham reads. "... If there is a single food manufactuer in America that can't find sugar, we are unaware of it. Since apparently you have different information, we have dispatched a truck filled with 20 tons of sugar to the Washington, D.C. area that we are happy to deliver to your office."

The truck, which has 800 bags of sugar, each 50 lbs., is waiting at a carrier’s distribution yard in Carlisle, Penn., until at least Wednesday. USC paid for the truck and its transport, and declined to disclose its cost.

“If Graham wants it, the truckload is his and they can have it to his Georgetown office and unloaded within the day,” American Sugar Alliance's spokesman Phillip Hayes tells the Alley.

But it looks like big sugar's truck will have to turn around, because Graham isn't interested. In a statement to Alley, he writes, "This is nothing but another stunt from the sugar lobby aimed at diverting attention away from the fact that the sugar program costs American consumers and businesses billions of dollars each year.

"Much of the 'surplus' the sugar lobbyists cite is inventory and the U.S. price of refined sugar is still 50 percent or more above the world price," Graham writes. "Those are the facts, and that's why we are pushing for sugar reform in the farm bill. On the other hand, the sugar lobby is pushing a campaign of distortion to protect their costly subsidies."

The sugar program that places tariffs on most foreign sugar is something sugar farmers want to continue, but the candy industry wants it repealed or the program reformed.

The candy industry, organized as the Coalition for Sugar Reform, launched its "Unwrap the Facts" campaign last week. It consists of a website and was accompanied by emails to the Hill "to really counter what we think are misleading claims that the sugar lobby continues to push," coalition spokeswoman Jennifer Cummings tells the Alley.

In the third quarter, ASA (big sugar) spent $770,000 on lobbying, while CSR (big candy) spent $180,000.

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