Spangler Candy Company is among the business forces utilizing sugar on a regular basis that have joined the cause to call for what advocates call “modest” reforms to a U.S. sugar program that has remained unchanged for 80 years.
Since the Great Depression, subsidies to sugar growers and processors, quotas on imports and domestic production and minimum price setting have been in place.
Proponents of reform say those measures hurt American businesses to the tune of 125,000 jobs lost from 1997 to today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
With a new U.S. Farm Bill to be voted on in the near future, the sugar issue has once again re-emerged.
Proponents of reform say the measures inflate the price of U.S.-grown sugar, in some cases making it twice the price of that on the world market, according to Spangler CEO Kirk Vashaw. They also say current policy favors a few, large sugar growers and hurts manufacturers and small businesses that rely on it.
“This is simply government price fixing. It’s illegal for us to collude to fix prices and we don’t think it should happen anywhere,” said Vashaw, speaking on a telephone conference call.
Vashaw cited the mandates as the primary reason Spangler Candy, a 112-year-old company based in Bryan for 70 years, shipped 250 jobs to Mexico in the not-too-distant past.
“We were forced there by necessity,” said Vashaw, explaining that sugar accounts for 70 percent of the cost of hard candy like candy canes and that Spangler was one of the last candy companies to move at least some of its operations to other countries.
“How can a U.S. hard candy compete with other countries when their main cost driver is twice as much?” asked Vashaw. “They can’t ... Globalization has exposed its weakness as a net job killer in the last decade.’
“If we had access to world market, we’d have $3 million more a year and we’d have those jobs back,” he added. “Our demise is directly related to sugar policy.”
Vashaw said 12 job postings recently made by Spangler received 550 responses over several days, evidencing the community’s need for jobs. Spangler currently employs 540 people.
“These are good jobs, jobs our community desperately needs,” said Vashaw. “If you work at our company, you’re in the middle class.”
Spangler estimates that, with “modest” reforms advocated for by the National Confectioners Association and the Coalition for Sugar Reform, the jobs lost to Mexico would return in about five years.
“With hundreds more candy jobs I can picture Bryan with a growing population and a thriving middle class,” Vashaw said. “We certainly believe it’s time to inject some fairness into the program so Bryan can thrive.”
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