There is no economic defense of the sugar program, which every year provides nonrecourse loans to sugar processors at a guaranteed price-per-pound. If the market price is below the guarantee when they want to sell, the processors simply dump the crop on the U.S. Department of Agriculture as the loan repayment. To avoid that outcome, the USDA holds sugar prices artificially high by imposing tariffs on imports above an annual quota. The result is that Americans pay about twice what the rest of the world pays for sugar...
Mr. Rubio explains his support with the last refuge of protectionist scoundrels—national security. If the U.S. opens the market for sugar, he says, “other countries will capture the market share, our agricultural capacity will be developed into real estate,” and “then we lose the capacity to produce our own food, at which point we’re at the mercy of a foreign country for food security.”
So let’s see: If Americans don’t pay double the world price for sugar, Pepe Fanjul will sell his sugar acreage to home builders, who will pave over Florida and put us at risk of extortion from . . . Brazil? This national security line doesn’t hold up for rare-earth minerals from China used for national defense, much less a basic farm commodity.
Mr. Rubio knows this, but he’s also close to Florida’s biggest sugar producers. One of the largest campaign contributors over his career has been Florida Crystals, which is a Fanjul family company. On this issue Mr. Rubio is allied not with the tea party but with Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn), the progressive hero who fronts for wealthy sugar-beet interests.
Mr. Rubio has many talents, but one trait the presidential campaign has exposed is a tendency to hedge on his principles when he thinks it’s politically beneficial. He’s walking away from his immigration reform record, and he’s pandered to social conservatives with his $2,500 tax credit per child. His sugar high is another low.