Sugar producers from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America sent the Senate Agriculture Committee a letter on May 16  praising lawmakers for continuing no-cost sugar policy in its farm bill.

The letter, signed by the 17-member International Sugar Trade Coalition (ISTC), noted, “U.S. sugar policy…is important to sugar producers in developing nations because it provides a guaranteed level of access to the U.S. sugar market at fair, predictable prices.”

Sugar producers from the Philippines, one of the ISTC’s members, are on Capitol Hill this week to meet with lawmakers in both the House and Senate and urge them to maintain support for sugar policy as the legislative process unfolds -- a sentiment that was echoed in the ISTC letter.

“Attempts to weaken (sugar) policy through amendments on the Senate floor would not only harm U.S. farmers but also poor growers from developing countries where sugar is a key economic driver,” ISTC wrote.

Efforts by sugar policy critics to characterize the U.S. sugar market as being closed are erroneous, ISTC noted. “The United States is the world’s biggest importer of sugar, importing 3.7 million tons of sugar from 40 countries --38 of them developing countries -- this year alone.”

In fact, sugar producers in developing nations fear that eliminating or weakening U.S. sugar policy would only benefit large food companies and agricultural superpowers like Brazil, while proving particularly punishing to the world’s poorest economies.

ISTC points to recent sugar policy changes in the European Union as proof.  There was a direct correlation, ISTC explained, between the EU importing less sugar from developing nations and economic distress in countries where there are no agricultural alternatives to sugarcane.

There were other ramifications to EU policy changes, according to American Sugar Alliance policy analyst Jack Roney. “Because the EU harmed its developing country suppliers and cut its own domestic production, they’ve had supply shortages in recent years. Meanwhile, worldwide supply problems didn’t harm America because of our sugar policy.”

Roney believes ample sugar supplies in the Unites States, combined with affordable prices for grocery shoppers and the fact sugar policy operates at no cost to taxpayers, will lead to its continuation in the next farm bill.