Big Sugar’s strong appetite for corporate welfare

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Algae blooms are impacting Florida’s Treasure Coast just in time to ruin the Fourth of July holiday weekends of visitors.  A state of emergency has been declared. If the bloom doesn’t clear, summer vacations will be canceled; those who make their living in resort areas have already been impacted.

Is this merely the vagaries of Mother Nature? It is not. Instead, this is a case of government-subsidized destruction that is supported by both political parties. Government subsidies for the domestic sugar industry have helped to create the algae blooms. The blooms have been going on for years and have killed wildlife such as dolphins, manatees, and pelicans, as well as causing beach closings.

On top of price supports, the government enforces a system of tariffs and quotas on imported sugar.

One source of the algae is Lake Okeechobee, the second biggest freshwater lake in America. The fertile earth surrounding the lake has supported Florida’s sugarcane industry.  Sugar plantations then send their farm contaminants into the lake. When water levels in the lake get high, the Army Corps of Engineers releases algae contaminated water into the St. Lucie River, a seven-mile estuary connected to the coast.

Runoff from the plantations adds about 15 billion gallons of contaminated water a year to the lake. This contaminated water is low in oxygen and high in nitrogen and phosphorus, conditions which help breed algae.

Cause-and-effect in complex eco-systems is hard to trace. What percentage of the algae growing is due to sugar plantations? We don’t know for sure. What we do know is this, sugar plantations are contaminating the water. In the absence of government subsidies, sugar plantations in Florida might not even exist.

Government Sweethearts

World prices sugar are lower and sometimes considerably lower than the domestic price of sugar. The Manhattan Institute’s Jared Meyer and Preston Cooper explain how government subsidizes the sugar industry:

“The program that supports the American sugar industry has many facets. Most infamous is a subsidy program in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to sugar farmers and allows them to repay those loans with raw sugar if sugar prices fall below 20.9 cents per pound. This program functions as an effective mass purchase of sugar, which drives up prices for consumers and thus doubly subsidizes the industry…

The government also enforces a system of tariffs and quotas on imported sugar, limiting the supply of cheaper sugar that can be imported from abroad. This results in wide spreads between global and domestic sugar prices.”

The cost of all this? Economist Mark Perry explains the cost of the sugar subsidy in 2012:

“By forcing Americans to pay an average of 43.4 cents per pound in 2012 for inefficiently produced domestic beet sugar instead of 26.5 cents per pound for more efficiently produced world sugar, US sugar policy forced Americans to pay a “premium” of almost 17 cents per pound for the roughly 17 billion pounds of American sugar produced last year.  In total, that 17 cent per pound “premium” translates to almost $2.9 billion in artificially inflated costs for the domestic sugar purchased by American consumers and businesses in 2012.”

The high-fructose corn syrup industry did not exist prior to the sugar price support program.

From Big Sugar to Big Corn

One intervention leads to another. The Department of Agriculture sells the purchased sugar at a discounted price to ethanol producers. Ethanol production is another industry which arguably would not exist without government subsidies. Subsidized ethanol production further damages the environment.

Not only is the sugar subsidy costing billions of dollars, but it is also shifting the jobs of confectioners overseas to take advantage of the lower world sugar price.  Trump has proclaimed he will never eat Oreos again because the cookie manufacturer is shifting production to Mexico. Manufacturers in Mexico can purchase sugar at the world’s price; no doubt that influences their purchase decisions.

As importantly, sugar subsidies are helping to destroy our health as Michael Wohlgenant explains:

“The high-fructose corn syrup industry did not exist prior to the early 1970s, when the current sugar price support program was implemented. The industry came into existence only because of the high sugar prices created by the program. Now, however, the high-fructose corn syrup industry accounts for about half of all sugar consumed in the U.S., much of which is used by the soft drink industry. Increasingly, questions have been raised about the possible health effects of high-fructose corn syrup, including its relationship to obesity, diabetes and liver damage. If the program were eliminated, sugar prices would fall and the proportion of high-fructose corn syrup in our diets would decline significantly.”

Subsidizing sugar plantations in Florida makes no more sense than subsidizing pineapple plantations. Theoretically, pineapples could grow commercially in Florida; but Florida pineapples would cost more than those grown in other locations. Thus, the free market utilizes land that could be growing pineapples for more efficient uses. In the same way, if sugar subsidies were ended, land currently utilized for growing sugar cane would revert to high valued uses.

Allowing contaminated discharges into Lake Okeechobee is another form of subsidy. The cost of this subsidy is paid by homeowners whose property values are affected and by the tourism industry whose visitors stay away when impacted beaches are closed or contaminated.  

Walt Disney World resort is a mere hundred miles from Lake Okeechobee. They are known for keeping their property pristinely clean. Why? The ability of Disney to charge premium prices is directly impacted by the quality of the consumer experience. On the other hand, Lake Okeechobee is an unowned resource; and through political contributions, the sugar lobby known as Big Sugar has obtained considerable bipartisan political clout.

Bernie’s Sugar Daddy

For example, in 2014 American Crystal Sugar Company donated to 221 members of Congress, 109 Democrats and 92 Republicans. How about Bernie Sanders? After all he has railed against corporate corruption and many see him as a critic of corporate greed. Sanders supporters take note; he too takes Big Sugar’s money.

Sugar subsidies are an example of the well-known principle that government grows when a program has benefits that are concentrated and costs that are diluted. The sugar industry has a much stronger interest in promoting subsidies then we as individuals have in opposing them. Big Sugar’s millions of dollars of campaign contributions are a small price for them to pay to ensure that their interest comes before the interests of taxpayers, property owners, consumers, and the environment.

When we subsidize something we get more of it. Government subsidy of Big Sugar means we get more sugar, along with greater destruction of the environment.  Environmentalists who favor a larger role for government might want to take note.

Barry Brownstein


Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. He blogs at BarryBrownstein.com, Giving up Control, and America’s Highest Purpose.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Vote for Karl Dickey for Palm Beach County Soil and Water Conservation District , Group 5

On November 4, 2014, Palm Beach County voters will decide who to elect to the Group 5 position on the Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District (PWCSWCD). The position will be voted on county-wide so all voters will have an opportunity to choose between myself and my opponent.

It is unfortunate the PBCSWCD has been so mismanaged by my opponent and her cronies that it wastes taxpayer dollars without full disclosure to the public. Their website is inadequate and does not include their meeting dates and times. Their budget, which includes expenses of $305,000, should be online and should not just be some pie-in-the-sky pie chart. They should provide a line item income and expense report each quarter on their website. This is what I would have done if I was leading the PBCSWCD, so the public can see how effective the organization is. Additionally, why not have a Facebook page for the PBCSWCD? It costs nothing but time. Put up a Facebook page to educate the public about the PBCSWCD rather than spending that time filling out many meaningless, bureaucratic reports. The PBCSWCD lacks transparency and that is the first thing I will work to change once Palm Beach County voters elect me to the board!

It is understandable why my opponent may not welcome such transparency, as outgoing employee, Sosa Omelio, received $70,440.24 from the PBCSWCD in 2013. This is a jump from $35,220.12 in 2012. I was at one of their meetings concerning Sosa’s retirement and his pay and was disgusted by what I saw which was one of the primary reasons for my running for this office. This District is being terribly mismanaged, plain and simple.

My opponent is either confused or is choosing to deceive the public when she states the PBCSWCD does not receive taxpayer money. The District operates with taxpayer money whether that money is directly received or received calling it a grant. The money comes from taxpayers, plain and simple.

My opponent and a couple of her friends have chosen to mischaracterize what I have stated plainly and clearly regarding the future of the PBCSWCD. To set the record straight, when like-minded individuals created a majority of the board in Seminole County, the Soil & Water District there flourished and became self-sufficient. My aim would be to do the same or what is in the best interest of the taxpayers and the environment.

A vote for me, Karl Dickey, is a vote for open government, better management of the PBCSWCD and your tax dollars! Plain and simple.

Thank you for your consideration,

Karl Dickey

Political advertisement paid for and approved by Karl Dickey, for the non-partisan office of Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District, Group 5

I hope I can rely on your support!

Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District – Group 5

On the November 4, 2014 ballot here in Palm Beach County, my name will appear as a candidate for the county soil & water conservation district and I was hoping to have your support and vote for this non-partisan office.

I am not looking for any money, just your vote in November. We are trying to save taxpayers $350,000. We already have two new board members and with my election to the board we will control the board. With a majority of like-minded members of the board, we will be able to do serious reductions in the budget without negatively affecting the environment.

If you are on Facebook, please ‘Like’ our campaign page: https://www.facebook.com/KarlDickeyforPalmBeachSoilWaterConservation.

Thank you,
Karl Dickey

Disclaimer: Paid Pol. Adv. by Karl Dickey, non-partisan candidate for Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District 5

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Bill Wohlsifer on Non Aggression Principle in Environmental Policy

When it becomes apparent that government irrespective of its level fails at its legislated duties, it becomes necessary to revise the operations of policy. Good intentions and sometimes good law inevitably becomes the first victims over the best interests of the citizens. This is indeed the cycle of politics especially in a representative form of government. When competing interests vie for power there will always be winners and losers. Because of the political nature of this competition for interest the need to secure advantage many times replaces the thought of Bentham’s principle which states that the goal of government is to do the most good for the most people.

Read the rest of Wohlsifer’s position here.

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SKLAR FURNISHINGS INVITES BOCA RATON COMMUNITY TO ITS FIRST “ALL THAT’S GREEN” SUNDAY ON MAY 18TH

Fun & Free Event Shares Advantages of Eco-Smart Living While Benefiting Habitat For Humanity of South Palm Beach County

Continuing the global glow of the 44th Annual Earth Day, Sklar Furnishings (Sklarfurnishings.com) announces its hosting of its first “ALL THAT’S GREEN” SUNDAY, a free community event to share the advantages of embracing and enjoying a “natural” eco-smart lifestyle while benefiting Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County on May 18th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at its 22,000–square–foot contemporary furniture showroom and design center. An industry leader in green advocacy that forges furniture alliances around the globe with designers and manufacturers that share its strong commitment to the environment, Sklar Furnishings is bringing Tesla, Environmental Strategist Yalmaz Siddiqui of Office Depot, Inc., Shred Trust, eBikes On Demand powered by the Electric Bike Store, Organic Cellar Plus, American Fine Wine Competition, Gourmet Truck Expo (serving up plant-based and organic foods), Eat The Truth with Coco Frey, Cristino Fine Jewelry, and Habitat For Humanity’s ReStores to join its team of credentialed home and office designers and space planners to help drive the year ‘round message of building a greater eco-community.

In addition to having the opportunity to tour its variety of custom furniture lines that are invested in heavily reducing the environmental impact of its operations and use of reclaimed natural materials, event-goers will enjoy a host of green lifestyle showcases, demos, ebike test drives, healthy food samplings, organic and sustainable wine tastings, energy efficiency seminars, onsite estate jewelry re-sales, live entertainment by vocalist Kendra Erika, and special offers, giveaways and chances-to-win.

While Sklar will donate a percentage of sales on event day to Habitat for Humanity of South PBC plus two trees to a Florida forest for each purchase of a wood product, event-goers also have the opportunity to do their part in “repurposing, recycling and shredding” for a cause. To help raise vital funds for Habitat For Humanity, Sklar encourages the community do some serious “Spring Cleaning” and then donate their gently used household discards on event day for resale at Habitat for Humanity ReStores (www.bocadelrayboynton.habitatrestores.org). They can also bring their old tax and other personal documents to be securely shredded onsite by Shred Trust — for a $5 donation per container — during event hours. Scheduling pick-ups of large appliances, furniture, doors, hurricane shutters and more can also be made at the Habitat for Humanity tent.

“Even though Earth Day comes just once a year, it is critical that environmental awareness and advocacy be a continuous all-year mission,” adds Sklar Co-Owner Rick Howard, who is also president of the North American Home Furnishings Association that champions the independent home furnishings retailer — the nation’s largest organization devoted specifically to the needs and interests of home furnishings retailers, with more than 1,800 members representing more than 7,000 storefronts across all 50 states and several foreign countries.

Sklar’s green commitment started with joining the Sustainable Furnishings Council, a nonprofit balance coalition of industry players founded at High Point, NC that promotes sustainable practices among manufacturers, retailers, and consumers alike. Thus, Sklar does its part both in business operations of being as eco-efficient as possible and community initiatives such as ‘All That’s Green’ Sunday to raise awareness and encourage reductions in carbon emission, waste stream pollutants, un-recyclable content and primary materials from unsustainable sources.

“As a citizen and tenant of the planet, Sklar Furnishings pledges to continually work toward becoming ‘greener’,” reports Sklar Co-Owner Pat Howard. “Going beyond the obvious best practices, our company partners in creating forests via the National Forest Initiative by donating a tree to one of Florida’s four natural forests for each purchase of a wood product. On event day we will be doubling that donation for each purchase.”

She reported that a significant array of Sklar vendors are also responsible stewards of the planet, as event-goers will find as they tour through galleries featuring American Leather, Huppé, Jesse Furniture, Tonelli Design, Copeland Furniture, Phillips Furniture. All of Sklar’s leather line tanneries now use the eco-friendly method, all wood manufacturers use water-based stains, and several vendors offer selections of organic cottons, and several of its rug vendors use scraps from other industries (i.e. silk tie remnants, nylon hosiery wastes). There are plentiful design applications in glass – from tabletops and shelving to art and accessories – that in itself is “green”.

Committed To Building & Bettering Community Through Support of Habitat For Humanity
Since Sklar Furnishings opened its doors by the entrepreneurial husband and wife team in November 2002, the only independent furniture showroom of its kind in the region has had a strong partnership with Habitat for Humanity that provides “simple, decent, and affordable” housing for low-income families. Sklar donates thousands of dollars in merchandise to the organization that in turn is sold in ReStores, thus being recognized as a recipient of the “I Gave at the House” Award for six consecutive years. With Rick Howard serving on the Habitat for Humanity board of directors, Sklar’s support escalated to underwriting the construction of its first Habitat For Humanity home that was completed and dedicated in October 2013.

“Helping to not just provide shelter, but also instill pride of ownership and a true ‘sense of community’ to those working hard to become first-time homeowners is both gratifying and inspiring as our entire team looks forward to beginning efforts for a second Habitat For Humanity home,” noted Pat Howard, who with Rick Howard will be honored on May 22nd as the 2014 Small Business Leaders of the Year by the Greater Boca Raton Chamber for their professionalism, business leadership, entrepreneurship and community “give back”.

 

Obama politicizes Keystone XL pipeline to rescue Democrats in November

Yesterday, April 18, 2014, the Obama administration through the U.S. State Department, announced it would delay a decision on whether to permit the Keystone XL pipeline to be built in the United States. The delay is expected to last until after the November, 2014 election, providing cover for Democrats over the controversial pipeline. In its statement, the department said, “The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents.”

Read the rest of the story here.