Richard Lugar is getting a Tea Party challenge this year, but as I wrote in my December column on the issue, Lugar's not the type of guy to tack to the Right just in order to please a primary electorate. Lugar is something of a porker, he's a bailout backer, and he's an ethanol booster. He's for exactly the sort of Big Business-Big Government junk that drives Tea Partiers crazy.
That's what makes his new crusade against sugar subsidies so noteworthy.
The federal government, in one of its least defensible corporate welfare boondoggles, limits the amount of foreign sugar that can enter the country. The result: a U.S. price for sugar that is often double or triple the world price. (Ever wonder why Coca-Cola tastes different in other countries? It's because they use sugar while American bottlers use corn syrup.)
The sugar program also includes non-recourse loans to sugar growers, with sugar as collateral -- meaning if the price of sugar drops too low, sugar growers simply sacrifice their sugar to the federal government, and default on their loans.
Florida's biggest sugar growers are very politically connected (the Fanjuls), and that's the only reason this program exists.
Lugar's standing up to it, according to Robert Costa of NRO:
Lugar tells National Review Online that he will soon introduce legislation to repeal the industry’s cushy arrangement with Beltway bureaucrats and “get the government out of sugar.” His bill, he says, will attempt to axe government-mandated tariffs, quotas, subsidies, and related price-inflating mechanisms.
“I’m energized to take on the sugar program again because many more Americans understand that they personally pay the costs of government overreach,” Lugar says. “It’s time to leave Franklin Roosevelt’s farm policies behind us.”
Lugar’s FDR mention refers to the Jones-Costigan Act of 1934, which first set up a control system for cane sugar and sugar beets. But the sugar ties between Washington and producers go far beyond that. According to a Cato Institute study, “the federal government guarantees a minimum price for sugar in the domestic market by maintaining a system of preferential loan agreements, domestic marketing quotas, and import barriers.”
Meanwhile, I'm liking what Lugar is saying on Libya.