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Holiday Candy Canes Come Spiced With Lobbying

The National Confectioners Association is trying to sweeten its lobbying message on Capitol Hill. The candy makers’ group is delivering a candy cane to each Congressional office today with a policy sound bite for the new year: “Don’t be a Grinch. Sugar reform is a cinch.”

“We thought that by having something sweet attached, it would make it easier to read,” said Liz Reilly, vice president of government affairs for the association. The Coalition for Sugar Reform also joined the candy cane drive, bringing sweets from the Spangler Candy Co. in Bryan, Ohio, to Capitol Hill.

As part of its effort, the confectioners also recently hired Bill Morley of the Altrius Group to lobby on Farm bill and sugar legislation.

Morley said the confectioners are going after “hidden subsidies” for sugar growers. The group is pushing for a handful of bills including the Free Sugar Act, which would repeal a federal sugar loan program that candy makers say gives a price advantage to bonbons made abroad.

“It makes it hard for them to be competitive,” Morley said of domestic candy makers.

But the treats — and the lobbying behind them — are giving U.S. sugar-growers something of a toothache.

“What they are looking for is 100 percent imported sugar, which is heavily subsidized from other countries, to pad their bottom lines,” said Phillip Hayes, spokesman American Sugar Alliance, which represents sugar beet and sugarcane producers.

Hayes added that the U.S. candy industry is thriving and noted that Spangler recently announced a large expansion and addition of jobs in Ohio.

“The large candy companies are adding jobs. ... And we think that’s a pretty good success story,” he said. “To be frank, we’re not really sure what they’re complaining about.”

Hayes added that his side has “found the wrappers that the candy comes in cost more than the sugar inside.”

As for his newest client, lobbyist Morley said it’s making him popular on Capitol Hill and at home.

“When I walk into an office with a bag of candy, it’s one of the few times everyone’s happy to see me,” he said. “And my kids are finally excited about what I do.”

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