Louisiana sugar producers: Wall Street Journal article one-sided, incorrect

THIBODAUX — Louisiana’s sugar producers are outraged that a recent Wall Street Journal news story portrayed the domestic sugar industry incorrectly and unfairly, said Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League.

“Louisiana’s sugarcane industry is comprised completely of family farms and has survived in the state for more than two centuries,” Simon said. “The Wall Street Journal article would have you believe that American consumers would be better served by foreign sugar producers who are heavily subsidized by their governments.

“‘Big Candy,’ such as multi-national companies like Nestle and Hershey, has enjoyed low sugar costs made possible by the USDA’s sugar policy for years. Nestle doesn’t complain when the price is low.

“The USDA sugar policy has operated at no cost to the taxpayer for 10 years in a row because of careful management from United State Department of Agriculture officials. How many commodity programs can claim they have operated at no taxpayer cost for ten years?”

Simon explained that American sugar producers like Louisiana’s supply about 80 percent of United States sugar demand. USDA officials attempt to gauge American sugar demand and monitor how much foreign sugar is allowed into the U.S. Despite this regulation, the U.S. market is the largest open sugar market in the world.

“Unfortunately, ‘Big Candy’ urged the USDA to allow 420,000 tons of unneeded subsidized foreign sugar into the country last April which resulted in oversupply of the U.S. market,” Simon said. “There’s no mention of that fact in the Wall Street Journal article.

“Now ‘Big Candy’ is exploiting the possibility that sugar price supports may be needed to solve the problem that ‘Big Candy’ created to denigrate USDA sugar policy.

“I don’t think American consumers want their food supply held hostage by foreign sources. OPEC already has a tremendous effect on U.S. oil prices. Is OSEC (the Organization of Sugar Exporting States) next?”

Simon said Louisiana sugarcane growers and millers are shocked that a prestigious publication like the Wall Street Journal would choose to ignore facts countering the reporter’s supposition that the U.S. sugar market is closed, when, in fact, America is the largest sugar importer in the world.

“The Wall Street Journal also told its readers that sugar prices are higher in the U.S. than on the world dump market,” Simon said. “That is not the case. World sugar prices are actually higher than U.S. prices once transportation, which is factored into the U.S. price, is accounted for.

“There are numerous problems with the Wall Street Journal’s story, but the most critical is that the reporter assumes that the price of candy and the price of sugar are linked, even though sugar only makes up about two percent of a candy bar’s cost.

“If these prices were linked, why are candy prices climbing while sugar prices hover at near-record lows?

“The American sugar industry doesn’t mind scrutiny, but it does ask for fairness and objectivity. I’ve always thought that the Wall Street Journal reported both sides of an issue. Now I’m not so sure.

“National sugar policy is not designed to give our industry an advantage over our foreign competitors. It is, however, designed to give American sugar producers, Louisiana sugarcane farmers included, a fair and level field on which we can compete with our foreign counterparts. Without that level playing field, Louisiana’s 219-year-old industry may be in jeopardy.”

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