Tuesday, June 07, 2005

CAFTA and Big Sugar

A Bitter Pill for Sugar Beet Farmers: "The specter of CAFTA collapsing over sugar is particularly galling to economists who have long criticized federal restrictions on sugar imports. 'Sugar is a prototypical case of a policy that favors the few at the expense of the many,' wrote Kimberly A. Elliott, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development, in an analysis last month."

...Sugar growers and refiners gave $2.4 million in contributions to Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2003-04 election cycle, more than any other agricultural group, according to Political MoneyLine, an organization that tracks such data. The best-known donors are big sugar cane growers in Florida and Louisiana, especially the Fanjul brothers, who come from a family of sugar barons in Cuba (their holdings were expropriated by Fidel Castro) and now produce cane near the Everglades.

Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, president of Florida Crystals Corp., raised enough money for the Bush campaign to gain entry into the elite group of GOP "Rangers." His brother Alfonso, who specializes in contributions to Democrats, gained notoriety during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, when it emerged that Fanjul's phone call to the Oval Office had interrupted a presidential meeting with Monica Lewinsky...

...eliminating the distortions created by government policies in the United States, Europe and elsewhere could create 1 million jobs in developing countries that are more efficient sugar producers. And American consumers would benefit; workers in sugar-using industries might benefit, too.

High sugar prices have played a part in the exodus of American candymakers such as Brach's and Fannie May, and of Kraft Foods' Lifesavers plant, to countries such as Canada and Mexico. Although the sugar industry points out the those moves abroad were driven more by labor-cost than sugar-cost considerations, the plant closures have evoked bitterness in candymaking centers like Chicago."

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