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Hershey Foods is sweet target for U.S. sugar-growing lobby


In the not-so-sweet business of big-time Washington lobbying, Hershey Foods and its well-known chocolate dollop took it in the kisser recently.

The Hershey Kiss was singled out in attack ads in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that were paid for by the American Sugar Farmers, a lobby for U.S. cane and sugarbeat growers.

Congress is now weighing agriculture support policies that only come up for consideration every five years.

The sugar lobby is on a rush.

U.S. sugar producers do not receive direct taxpayer subsidies, but the government limits imports and U.S. production to maintain a stable price. The current price for raw cane sugar is 24 cents a pound in the United States. On the world market, it is 11 cents a pound.

Food companies point to a General Accounting Office study that concludes the sugar policy costs consumers $1.4 billion a year. U.S. sugar producers claim it protects them from foreign nations that would dump cheap sugar on our market, drive domestic farmers out of business and then send the price skyrocketing later.

Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, said Hershey was targeted as a result of a Merrill Lynch research report.

Hershey, the ad says, "touted" in a presentation to Merrill Lynch "its plans to pocket profits if U.S. sugar policy is dismantled."

But Leonard Teitelbaum, the Merrill Lynch analyst who follows Hershey, said the company touted no such thing.

"Hershey guards all of their positions and their costs very closely," he said.

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