James Bovard’s recent USA Today column attacking Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) support of U.S. sugar policy is built on the false assumptions that a global free market in sugar exists and that supporting U.S. farmers is at odds with being conservative.
Every sugar-producing country in the world subsidizes its sugar industry with policies that are more lucrative and trade-distorting than America’s. U.S. sugar policy costs $0 because it consists of loans that are repaid with interest instead of subsidy checks.
For this investment of $0, U.S. grocery shoppers get prices that are below world averages. And U.S. food manufacturers currently pay the same for sugar as they did in the 1980s, helping them expand production and add jobs here at home.
As for Rubio, his clear position demonstrates conservative values.
He believes all sugar subsidies around the world, including U.S. sugar policy, should be abolished so that a true free market that rewards efficiency can form. But he smartly opposes America acting in isolation without concessions from abroad to bring about real reform.
Real reform that protects U.S. interests while moving towards a true, global free market can be achieved by Congress adopting Rep. Ted Yoho’s “Zero for Zero” resolution calling for the end of the current U.S. sugar program in return for the simultaneous end of sugar subsidies by other sugar-producing nations.
The real question is not of Rubio’s conservative credentials. It’s how any politician could support policies that help less efficient foreign countries gain control over our food supply.