Recent events have me thinking, as one does, about U.S. sugar policy. First and most obviously, it’s the Christmas season, and my sugar intake—along with my waistline—has predictably increased. (I blame Santa.) Second, controversy erupted last week when U.S. food manufacturer (and major industrial consumer of sugar) Kellogg’s announced that—after its unionized workforce rejected the company’s latest labor contract offer—it would hire non-union workers in the meantime. This prompted a rather, ahem, unique statement from President Biden, saying he was “deeply troubled” by the move. Since both events implicate U.S. sugar policy, which significantly burdens not only American families, but also U.S. companies like Kellogg’s and their workers, there’s no better time to dig into the issue.
So go grab a(nother) frosted cookie, and let’s get down to it.
How the U.S. Sugar Program Works
As helpfully summarized in a 2018 paper by my Cato colleague Colin Grabow, U.S. government support for sugar—some form of which has been in place since 1789!—has four main pillars today: