(Corrects to "corn refiners" instead of "corn farmers" in
By Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO, June 26 The powerful U.S. corn lobby is
launching an unusual offensive against the country's sugar
sector, an old foe in the lucrative sweetener market: seeking to
overturn the controversial, near-century old U.S. sugar program.
The Corn Refiners Association, which represents
high-fructose corn syrup producers, has hired Washington
lobbyist firm, the Alpine Group, to challenge sugar's
long-protected status, a spokesman for the organization said on
The sugar program, which restricts imports, sets price
floors and provides government-backed loans to cane and beet
processors, is considered one of the most generous in the U.S.
Farm Bill that passed a year ago.
"The sugar loan program is an embarrassment," Corn Refiners
chief executive officer John Bode said in a statement. Its
members include Archer Daniels Midland Co and Cargill
This is the first time corn refiners have publicly taken the
fight to Washington by tackling sugar policy. Corn farmers also
benefit from government support programs that keep a floor under
Cane and beet farmers say they need subsidies to ensure the
long-term health of industry, which employs thousands of workers
across the Midwest and the South. Many also grow corn.
For years, the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup industries
have jousted over their share of the massive sweetener market.
Yet they also have been aligned in defending sweeteners from
critics who say they cause obesity.
The corn lobby will most likely seek to introduce reforms
through the Congressional appropriations process, now underway
in the House. The Washington Post first reported on the lobbying
effort on Thursday.
Phillip Hayes, spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance,
which represents sugar growers, declined to comment on the move.
But he said it would be unfortunate if the agricultural
sector tried to overhaul policy, aiding "opponents in their
quest to gut the safety net on which all U.S. farmers depend."
Efforts in recent years to repeal sugar policy have failed.
The U.S. sugar industry is a small but powerful group that
includes the politically connected Fanjul family, which owns
Domino Sugar, C&H, and Florida Crystals.
The sugar sector accounts for a third of campaign donations
from U.S. agriculture, while making up only 2 percent of farms,
according to the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, a
conservative think tank.
"All too often, it has been asserted that the corn industry
backs sugar price supports. That is not true and to help get
that point across, this year we are working for reform," Bode
(Additional reporting by Chris Prentice in Kansas City; Editing
by David Gregorio)