Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: U.S. House should end sweet deal for Big Sugar

Longstanding U.S. sugar policy pummels consumers and taxpayers in three ways: We subsidize growers, pay higher food prices and then pay even more for environmental damage sugar production causes in South Florida. The only winners are Big Sugar and the politicians who rake in its campaign cash. With a new farm bill coming up in Congress, now is the time to reset the board on sugar policy to allow market forces to set sugar prices and bring relief to Floridians who are paying dearly for this sweet deal.

An amendment to the new farm bill, the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, would reform price supports that keep domestic sugar prices artificially high. Studies show that American-grown sugar costs up to twice as much as other countriesí sugar. The outdated policy also limits the amount of sugar that can be imported, slaps a tariff on imports that exceed certain quotas and requires the Agriculture Department to buy back excess sugar to prevent prices from plummeting. Itís a formula that guarantees perpetual profits for U.S. growers by pick-pocketing U.S. consumers.

Floridians are robbed even more. The two main growers in Florida, U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, are responsible for millions of gallons of phosphorous used on their farms annually running downstream and causing enormous harm to the Everglades. Guess who pays to clean it up. And donít forget the green algae that befouled beaches on both Florida coasts during the summer of 2016. That polluted water came from Lake Okeechobee and should have filtered south as nature intended ó through sugarland. Instead, it was diverted to the east and west, creating a neon green nightmare for tourism-reliant businesses.

Sugar growers and their defenders point to the jobs that would be lost if prices crashed. Some estimates say sugar production is responsible for 30,000 jobs in Florida, many of them concentrated in the high-poverty area around the Everglades. But like other protectionist actions, for every job saved, one more (at least) is lost. Candy makers and others have been moving operations overseas to escape high domestic prices and taxes on imports.

One factor explains the staying power of such malevolent policies. Between 1994 and 2016, the sugar industry spent $57.8 million in direct and in-kind contributions to state and local political campaigns. So far this election cycle, no other U.S. senator has taken more money from Big Sugar than Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is in a heated battle for re-election. His challenger, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, has reaped millions in contributions from sugar interests over the years. Not surprisingly, Nelson has done little to break the industryís grip on the domestic market, and Scott surely wouldnít do any better.

The only House member from Florida who has committed support for the Sugar Policy Modernization Act is Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican who represents an area from Fort Pierce to Palm Beach. The farm bill and the sugar modernization proposal is scheduled to be taken up this week in the House. Itís long past time for Floridaís elected representatives to stand up to the industry and do whatís best for the stateís job market, environment and consumers.

Thereís no valid argument for continuing to prop up the sugar industry in favor of the broader economy, and everyone except the growers and the politicians they enrich seems to understand that. Reforming the federal sugar program is a rare point of unity among such disparate groups as environmentalists, consumer advocates and free-market adherents. Thatís because crony capitalism is never in the public interest.

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Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the stateís 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestraís violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice theyíve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondiís lawsuit against the nationís largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the stateís battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Childrenís should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Childrenís Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institutionís lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburgís 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUDís flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18