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Sweet Politics

Mars pumps bucks into sugar reform

By Kacey Culliney , 31-Oct-2012

Mars Incorporated has focused much of its lobbying on driving reform of US sugar policy in this presidential election year.

Overall, the firm has spent $1,360,000 on lobbying so far for 2012, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. This compares to $2,310,000 spent for the full year of 2011.

Data suggests that reform of the sugar program in the 2012 Farm Bill is high on its lobbying agenda. Mars has filed two reports relating to this bill.

The US Sugar Program has been a topic of controversy among candy manufacturers for some time, with the Coalition for Sugar Reform heading up efforts to amend current laws.

The coalition, comprised of small, medium and large candy manufacturers and associations, has said the US sugar program is ‘outdated and costly’.

Mars Chocolate North America, through its membership of the National Confectioners Association (NCA), forms part of this coalition.

Sugar reform

The US sugar reform debate has been a hot industry topic for some years and has divided opinions between manufacturers and growers.

The current US sugar policy was set with the 1981 Farm Bill, based on the principle that supply should not exceed demand in order to keep prices stable. The government can restrict the amount of sugar that American sugar farmers can sell, restrict the amount that the US will buy to the level required by trade obligations, and divert excess sugar to ethanol production.

The American Sugar Alliance, which represents the interest of sugar cane and beet growers, is fully in favor of the existing policy. However trade organizations including the NCA argue that it is costly for consumers, small business and food manufacturers.

In May 2012, Larry Graham, NCA president and chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform, issued a written testimony to the US House Committee on Agriculture on behalf of the sugar-using industry. It summarized the adverse effects of the US Sugar Program, including restraints on domestic production imports and the lack of competition and high domestic sugar prices providing an incentive to relocate US food processing jobs.

In June this year, the US Senate voted 50-46 to shelve an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would have repealed the current sugar program. Despite the Senate’s rejection of the amendment, the Coalition for Sugar Reform said the close vote was heartening.

Mars was contacted for details on its lobbying stance, but did not provide a response prior to publication.

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