Kirk stresses need to reform `outdated` sugar industry - KMSP-TV

Kirk stresses need to reform `outdated` sugar industry

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Senator Mark Kirk sent a Halloween card to his colleagues on Capitol Hill. It asked, "What's the scariest part" of the day? Kirk's answer: the federal government program that raises the cost of candy and other sweets by billions of dollars every year. Federal sugar price supports have also helped to kill thousands of jobs in this area.

Economists estimate that the scandalous federal sugar price support program has killed 125,000 jobs in the candy and food production industries. Many used to be here. They're now in Canada and other countries for a very simple reason: they can purchase sugar on the world market, for far less than the federal government makes us pay here in America.

The lucky Trick-or-Treaters at Eddie Opler's home Thursday night got some of the candy bars he produces at the World's Finest Chocolate factory he owns on Chicago's West Side. He employs more than 500 workers there and claimed the payroll would be bigger, if only the U.S. government allowed him to buy sugar on the open world market. World's Finest buys about 20 million pounds of sugar a year and could save up to $3 million.

"It's just amazing how much it impacts our total bottom line," Edmond Opler, CEO of World's Finest Chocolate explains. "It affects what we can price products for and how we can compete. And, at the end of the day, it's about being competitive.

One study found that candy-making competitors in Canada, Mexico and elsewhere have for the last 30 years been able to buy sugar for less than half the price that American manufacturers pay. The reason: a federal program designed to give special protection to American sugar growers. When prices dip "too low," rather than allowing consumers to benefit, the Feds rush in to buy until prices are jacked back up. That alone has cost taxpayers $250 million just in the last four months, not to mention the extra billions paid by consumers. The programs defenders claim it protects American jobs. But economists have found the artificial sugar price program has killed at least three U.S. jobs for every one it's protected. It's devastated Chicago's once-thriving network of candy makers and those they employed.

"We were the candy capitol of the world. And now there's very few of us left," Opler says. "So, if you're adding jobs of significance, you really have to think about it, before moving to the United States or staying in the U.S., when you can build elsewhere and have lot cheaper ingredients, for no reason other than the sugar subsidy."

Many members of Congress who voted to cut the food stamp program in an effort to reduce the federal deficit, turned around and voted to continue sugar price supports. Notably, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the most outspoken critics of wasteful spending, opposed efforts to end the sugar program that costs consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars.

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