During this morning's educational session about proposed legislation to end the "Big Sugar Bailout," panelists conceded that the topic might be somewhat "dry" compared to others to be covered during the three-day All Things Baking Show, but they also stressed that it is one of the most important in its potential effect on both wholesale and retail bakery owners.
A number of lawmakers are looking to reform the program to allow buyers and sellers to conduct business in a competitive marketplace, without government intrusion, with bills from both the House of Representatives and the Senate looking to reform or remove the program altogether. The current sugar policy enforces a minimum price for sugar in the domestic market, enforces import quotas and market allotments, and mandates that any surplus be resold to ethanol plants at a loss.
"You are currently paying twice what you should be for sugar," Cory Martin, ABA's senior manager of government relations, told attendees. "Retail bakery owners are impacted just as much as wholesale. Wholesale operators typically get a discount because of the volume they buy and they often get first run of the mill."
In addition to the supply-demand imbalance, every job saved for sugar producers under the current sugar program results in three more job losses in food manufacturing.
"That's why small family confectioners and bakers should get involved," he said. "If you contact a member of Congress, they will listen. You have an opportunity to change the frame of the debate by getting involved."
Rich Reinwald, Certified Master Baker and owner of Reinwald's Bakery Huntington, N.Y., said that given the changes that have occurred in the industry and the world at large, the current policy, which was started in 1934 and last reformed in 1984, is extremely outdated.
"What in this world hasn't changed since 1934?" he said. "Things have changed. But they keep fighting to keep things static."
He says that as a third-generation bakery owner who testified before a joint committee of Congress about the sharp increase in wheat prices in 2008, he realized the power of his role as a member of the community. "I got my customers involved. I put out a petition that got 300 signatures. I also contacted local officials. Very often it funnels upward," he said. "You're an important part of your community, and your customers realize it more than you do."
For more information about the push to end the Big Sugar Bailout, click here.