The Coalition for Sugar Reform (CSR) today endorsed the findings of a General Accounting Office report which concludes the sugar program cost consumers nearly $2 billion dollar in higher food and beverage prices.

"This independent Congressional audit proves the sugar program is a great 'consumer rip-off' and a great windfall for wealthy sugar plantation owners. Every consumer is paying more for food and beverages because the federal government insists on subsidizing a small number of sugar producers. The program is an economic and environmental disaster of immense proportions. It is time for Congress to reform the law," said Larry Graham, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association.

In a related matter, the Coalition today also called on Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to tell taxpayers and the Congress exactly how much tax money the federal government intends to pay to sugar growers this fiscal year in order to artificially prop up prices. On May 11, 2000, when the Department announced its intention to buy 150,000 tons of sugar, Secretary Glickman said the government was acting in order "to save as much as $6 million." Now, according to press accounts, USDA's own budget analysts expect the government to spend $140 million on the sugar program this fiscal year, nearing three times the amount the Department implied in its earlier public statements.

"Earlier this week USDA wrote a check for nearly $55 million to the sugar industry when it actually purchased 132,000 tons of sugar. As taxpayers, we deserve to know how big a check the federal government will end up writing to sugar plantation owners. We urge you to tell the public whether the sugar program will cost $60 million, $140 million or some other amount this fiscal year," Graham wrote in a letter to Secretary Glickman.

"The days when sugar producers would speciously argue the program did not cost the taxpayer a cent -- 'none, zip, zilch, zero, nada' -- are over. Now they must change that to 'Lots, plenty, a whole bunch, mucho.' Congress and the taxpayer have a right to know now how much more good money the USDA intends to throw down the sugar sinkhole," he said.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform is a group of more than 20 organizations and associations whose objective is market-oriented reform for the U.S. sugar program. Coalition members represent consumers, environmentalists, think tanks, and advocates of fiscal responsibility, businesses and other interests. A listing of Coalition members and other additional information is available on the Coalition's website: www.sugar-reform.org.