Artificial Sweetness: A Survey of the Harmful Effects Caused by the U.S. Sugar Program and Possibilities for Reform

52 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2013

See all articles by Cameron Stokes

Cameron Stokes

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: August 22, 2012


The U.S. sugar industry is one of the most heavily protected in the world. This protection comes from the regulatory aspects of the farm bills passed by Congress every five or six years, most recently in 2008. The current sugar program consists of price supports to maintain a “price floor” for raw and refined sugar in the U.S., marketing controls to regulate the amount of sugar each state and individual producer can sell into the market, and import quotas to limit the influx of foreign sugar into the attractively-priced U.S. market. Because the program includes a “no cost” mandate, quotas are strictly enforced to prevent overproduction, which results in a deflated cost. As a result, those who are allotted a share of the market stand to gain big, while those who are outside the system suffer the consequences.

This Note will analyze the U.S. sugar program as it has developed and currently exists. The main focus will be on the program’s effect on various parties in the marketplace, including domestic sugar producers, domestic end-consumers and industries that use sugar, and international sugar producers. On balance, it will be shown that the impact of the sugar program is overwhelmingly negative on all but a very few parties. This paper will also explore various methods for reducing the harms created by the program, both domestically and internationally. Though in the near future, skepticism of any changes seems to remain the safest bet, the goal of this Note is to show that reform is needed and long overdue and that positive changes are possible down the road, even if they are politically difficult.

Keywords: Farm Bill, farm policy, Congress, sugar policy, sugar program, free trade agreement, world trade organization, WTO, import quotas

Suggested Citation

Stokes, Cameron, Artificial Sweetness: A Survey of the Harmful Effects Caused by the U.S. Sugar Program and Possibilities for Reform (August 22, 2012). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Cameron Stokes (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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