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David Baxter's Jan. 4 letter favoring a free market for sugar may be too little, too late. The effect of government policies driven by the lobby advocating high-cost domestic sugar beets has kept the price of sugar in the U.S. at twice the world price and has been catastrophic for the confection industry. Sugar is the primary raw material for candies, especially hard candies. Such products with a long shelf life can be manufactured offshore, not just with lower labor costs but with much lower raw-material costs. Predictably, many of the larger confectioners, such as Brach's Confections in Chicago, have moved offshore, and smaller companies are withering on the vine if they have not failed already.

As domestic manufacturing and jobs in this industry dwindle, guess what? The market for domestic sugar is shrinking. Thus the long-term and unintended consequence of favoring the sugar-beet industry with government policy will continue to severely damage the U.S.-based confection industry and to export jobs. At the same time sugar-beet growers are reducing their own markets over the long term, and that will cost the U.S. more jobs.

As a manufacturer of hard-candy manufacturing equipment in Chicago, I have seen more of the market for our machinery move offshore each decade, where the prompt service and close customer contact that gave us a competitive advantage counts for little compared to foreign manufacturers. More jobs lost. When the government picks winners, we all lose.

Barry Carroll

Lake Forest, Ill.

I was bemused by David Baxter's charge that the Competitive Enterprise Institute hasn't fought against the costly U.S. sugar program and its powerful lobby. Au contraire, Mr. Baxter. Over several years, in the lead-up to the 2008 farm bill and during debate and negotiations, CEI ran a bipartisan, left-right coalition of nonprofits focused on getting rid of the U.S. sugar program, with its domestic supply constraints, price supports and quota system for imported sugar. Under CEI's auspices, the Sugar Reform Alliance published studies, opinion articles, educational materials and videos and maintained a website devoted to sugar reform. Members also held seminars on Capitol Hill and briefed policy makers on how the sugar program harms consumers, sugar-using companies and the poor in developing countries.

We at CEI and others fought long and hard against a formidable sugar lobby that had strong bipartisan support in Congress, and we, unfortunately, were unsuccessful in our efforts. This year, when a new farm bill will be negotiated in a new cost-conscious Congress, there may be a better chance of ending the egregious sugar program. CEI will again be weighing in.
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