As someone who has spent his lifetime around candy ó my great grandparents founded Wolfgang Candy in York in 1921 ó I have witnessed tremendous change and growth not only within our company, but in our industry globally.
Unfortunately, one thing that has not changed through the years is the high price that confectionery manufacturers are forced to pay for sugar due to an outdated sugar subsidy created in Washington.
Every five years, Congress votes on a new Farm Bill, stuffed with a variety of subsidies for many crops, including sugar beet and sugarcane. Where sugar policy differs from other farm subsidies is that the U.S. government has implemented a Soviet-style collectivist policy that divides up domestic production in a closed cartel, sets high tariffs on foreign sugar imports and mandates artificially inflated price levels in the U.S.
This policy favors a small number of U.S. cane and beet sugar growers, shielding them from international and domestic competition while also providing government-imposed higher prices for U.S.-based manufacturers that buy sugar.
Pennsylvania, in particular, is hit hard by this sugar subsidy policy. Statewide, food and beverage companies that use sugar provide jobs for more than 40,000 employees spread out across nearly 800 businesses. More importantly, we not only provide treats for our neighbors statewide, but we bring the proud Pennsylvania tradition to consumers worldwide.
However, this demonstrated success is at great risk unless something can be done in Washington to reform the draconian U.S. sugar program. If Congress fails to act, the high price of sugar will continue to squeeze confectioners and other sugar-using companies. We need reform of this program.
And itís not just businesses such as ours that are being forced to pay more for sugar. Consumers also are paying more than their fair share of this government-mandated price hike. Individuals, small businesses, and food manufacturers pay an extra $4 billion annually because of inflated sugar prices, according to a study by Promar International. The findings translate to an extra $1 for every five-pound bag of sugar.
With families and businesses of all sizes struggling to get ahead in this economy, and food price inflation an increasing concern, this artificial price spike has absurdly bad timing.
With our national and state economy far from stable, doesnít it make sense to enact a policy that can have an immediate and positive impact on our state? The most prudent path is to force sugar producers to compete, just like our companies here in Pennsylvania do, with competitors across the globe.
Thankfully, several members of Congress have stepped forward, including many in our state. I have been proud to work with Rep. Joe Pitts, Rep. Charles Dent, Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick and Rep. Todd Platts, all of whom are working hard to pass H.R. 1385, the Free Market Sugar Act.
This legislation would effectively scrap the sugar subsidy program and discontinue loan guarantees and import quotas. In the Senate, I also applaud Sen. Pat Toomey for supporting S. 25, the Sugar Act of 2011. It will similarly end this program and be a boon for Pennsylvania manufacturers.
At Wolfgang Candy, we are doing our part to provide quality products at an affordable price to countless consumers as well as investing in our employees and their families. In turn, we are asking Congress to do its part to make sugar policy reform a priority for the families of Pennsylvania and nationwide.
Benjamin McGlaughlin is president and CEO of Wolfgang Candy Co. in York.
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Susquehanna Valley Center.
Nothing expressed here is an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any Legislation.