2/18/13 By: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
When Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans and the region, she crippled the nation’s largest sugar refinery, the Domino Sugar refinery in Chalmette.
Weeks later, Hurricane Rita landed to the west of the city and left much of the country’s sugar cane crop covered in saltwater and mud from the ocean floor. In some cases, houses, dead livestock, and even fishing boats from miles away had to be removed before crops could be tended.
Despite it all, grocery store shelves were not empty and sugar did not become an unaffordable luxury. Restaurants and coffee houses nationwide still gave it away for free. That is a testament to our nation’s strong sugar policy, which helped sugar producers get back on their feet quickly.
Thanks to the market stability provided by our strong sugar policy and the never-say-die spirit of Louisianans, the Domino refinery was one of the first Louisiana-based businesses to reopen, allowing growers throughout the state to keep multi-generational farms in operation.
Throughout the economic turmoil caused by these storms, sugar jobs stayed put, employing more than 16,000 people in Louisiana.
This serves as a reminder that small government policies can have a big impact. And it’s even more remarkable when you learn that sugar policy costs taxpayers exactly $0.
This is in complete contrast to sugar producers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The same year our Gulf Coast took a pounding from Mother Nature, European lawmakers were busy rewriting their sugar policies.
Under pressure from subsidized foreign producers hungry to eliminate the competition, and fueled by EU food manufacturers in search of cheap ingredients and big profits, Europe overhauled its sugar laws and left the region dependent on foreign producers.
And Europe found out the hard way that banking on the most distorted commodity market in the world is a recipe for disaster.
More than 120,000 sugar-related jobs in Europe were lost after 83 sugar mills closed, and when subsidized foreign suppliers opted to fill their own domestic needs before Europe’s, supplies dried up.
The result was a widespread sugar shortage and price spikes from which the EU is just now recovering. The cost of food increased for everyday citizens, and EU taxpayers had to fork over more than $1.6 billion in hopes of minimizing the government’s sugar policy miscalculation.
This is why maintaining our current strong sugar policy is vital. Should we move to a European model for our sugar policy, we would threaten over 142,000 well-paying sugar jobs and outsource production of a food staple to nations like Mexico and Brazil. Now is not the time to threaten a stable source of jobs and potentially deepen our already dire trade deficit.
We can do better. We must continue a no-cost sugar policy that keeps American jobs in America, ensures our ability to grow a vital food ingredient here at home, protects taxpayers and provides a stable, affordable supply for all.