1997 Scorecard Vote
The federal sugar program does not require direct outlays of subsidy dollars like other farm programs, but instead maintains U.S. sugar prices at roughly double the world market price. The artificially high cost of sugar is maintained by a combination of price supports, special loans, and restrictions on imports. The General Accounting Office has estimated that the higher retail prices created by the sugar program cost consumers more than $1 billion a year. The program's benefits are highly concentrated, with 1% of growers receiving over 40% of the benefits.
Over the past 30 years Florida's sugar production has increased nine-fold to 450,000 acres, polluting waters with pesticides and phosphorus, and diverting essential water from Florida's Everglades. Polluted runoff and interrupted water flows caused by sugar production are helping to destroy the Everglades ecosystem and the diverse plant and animal life it supports. As much as 20% of the 450,000 acres in sugar cane cultivation in Florida rely on the artificial price secured by the sugar price support program.
A key element in the sugar program is the non-recourse loan issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Processors obtain these loans using their sugar as collateral. The processor can either repay the loan with interest or default and forfeit the sugar. The USDA thus has an interest in keeping the price of sugar high enough to prevent mass forfeiture of sugar under the non-recourse loans.
During consideration of H.R. 2160, the Fiscal Year 1998 Agriculture appropriations (budget) bill, Reps. Dan Miller (R-FL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment that would prohibit the USDA from expending funds to administer non-recourse loans under the sugar program. Elimination of the non-recourse loans would remove a key component of the sugar program that has increased the level of environmentally destructive sugar cane production in southern Florida.
On July 24, 1997, the House defeated the Miller-Schumer amendment 175 - 253. YES is the pro-environment vote.