THE CANDY HEART: to a smitten valentine, it means love; to a sugar farmer, it means profit. What, pray, does it mean for “Big Candy”?
Considering the retail statistics, which put candy well in front of flowers and jewelery (yet slightly behind cards) as one of the most commonly purchased Valentines Day gifts, the candy industry is just as much a winner on the 14th as the sugar that coats its products.
So why are candy lobbyists (yes, they exist) making a fuss on what for them should be a day of celebration? The heavy snowfall certainly didn’t help. Many who would have happily purchased candy yesterday instead took up the shovel, bravely straining their back against nature’s caprice.
But weather is only part of the story. Candy is mostly cranky because of the farm bill. Even with confectionary sales on the rise and profit margins of over 12% through 2013, the candy industry despises the fact that sugar prices are still being propped up by cushy subsidies, tariffs, and production quotas. A recent House amendment that sought to chip away at this antiquated policy lost by slim margins in both the House and Senate. According to the LA Times:
…the House amendment would have passed easily if not for opposition from 74 lawmakers from states with no sugar growers, as well as 30 House members from California who have no sugar growers or refiners in their districts. That’s a testament to the lobbying muscle of sugar growers…
As evidenced by its name, the Coalition for Sugar Reform vocally opposes current policy, which it claims costs billions of dollars every year. The chairman of the coalition, Larry Graham of the National Confectioners Association, said in a statement that “the impact of sugar policy is felt everywhere, from local food manufacturers to the grocery store aisle to the kitchen table. Now is the time to make a change.”
That statement must have been penned before the defeat of the House amendment, which effectively dashed the hopes of confectioners to make Valentines Day a twofold victory: one of both big sales and big policy changes.
Which leads us back to the candy heart: to a bachelor it means disappointment and melancholy; to a candy lobbyist it means, well, pretty much the same.