Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

High Sugar Prices May Be Sweet For Illinois

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sen. Mark Kirk says the parts of President Obama's American Jobs Act that have bi-partisan support should be broken out and passed quickly. Other parts, he says, are non-starters and deserve extra attention. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    Sen. Mark Kirk thinks sugar is too expensive.

    And he’s right.

    Kirk: Portions of Jobs Act Should Be Moved Quickly

    [CHI] Kirk: Portions of Jobs Act Should Be Moved Quickly
    Sen. Mark Kirk says the parts of President Obama's American Jobs Act that have bi-partisan support should be broken out and passed quickly. Other parts, he says, are non-starters and deserve extra attention. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    Kirk and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire just published an editorial in Politico on their bill, the Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions (SUGAR) Act, which would end price supports that make American sugar twice as expensive as sugar from other countries.

    Write Kirk and Shaheen:

    Brizard, Senators Discuss Longer School Days

    [CHI] Brizard, Senators Discuss Longer School Days
    Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard will meet Friday with two senators from opposite sides of the aisle about the 90 extra minutes that are being added to several schools' days. (Published Thursday, Oct 13, 2011)

    High sugar prices affect jobs. The sugar program benefits about 4,700 growers of sugar cane and sugar beets nationwide. But it hurts more than 600,000 people working in sugar-using industries nationwide — from candy makers to bakers. 

    High sugar prices were responsible for the loss of 112,000 jobs in those industries between 1997 and 2009, according to industry analysts. For every sugar-growing job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, according to a 2006 Commerce Department study, approximately three jobs in sugar-using industries are lost.
       
    This policy puts U.S. businesses at a terrible disadvantage. Imported products that use sugar are relatively free of punitive tariffs. That means foreign competitors in the confectionery industry are using cheaper sugar so they can undersell American companies.

    Why does Kirk care so much about price supports for the sugar industry? Illinois is not a sugar-producing state. Sugar beets grow in Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota and Michigan. Sugar cane grows in Florida and Louisiana. It’s a sugar consuming state. We make Milky Ways, Snickers bars and Tootsie Rolls here. But, as Kirk, points out, confectioners have been fleeing Chicago to get away from high sugar prices. Brach’s moved to Mexico, leaving an empty factory on the West Side. Even Wrigley, one of Chicago’s signature brands, now makes gum in China and Mexico.

    You could argue, though, that sugar price supports have been good for Illinois. Excessive sugar prices led to the development of high fructose corn syrup, an artificial sweetener that has replaced sugar in most soft drinks. One of its biggest manufacturers is Archer Daniels Midland, the Decatur food processor that has spent millions of dollars lobbying for corn subsidies. Recently, Pepsi began selling a retro sugar-sweetened drink in a retro-styled can.

    Researchers at Princeton University have found that high fructose corn syrup is more fattening than sugar, and pointed out that the U.S. obesity rate has doubled since its
    introduction. If Kirk succeeds in lowering the price of sugar, would soft-drink companies switch back, thus eliminating a huge market for Illinois corn?

    Maybe high sugar prices have hurt Illinois’s candy industry, but they’ve created an even bigger industry.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!