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Candy-Makers Face Pressure For Lobbying The Trump Administration

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's time for your evening sugar rush mixed with a little business and politics. Mars Chocolate North America announced a $70 million investment today in U.S. factories, adding some 250 new jobs. That's the company behind Snickers, Skittles, Twix and lots of other candies, and it's not the only one. Haribo, the German gummy bear company, recently said it will open its first U.S. plant in Wisconsin. It plans to hire 400 people over the next few years.

Both companies say they've had these plans in the works for a long time. Domestic job announcements have always made President Trump happy, and investigative reporters for The Washington Post find that candy makers are trying to appeal to the Trump administration in lots of other ways, too.

Amy Brittain is a reporter with The Washington Post and joins us now. Hi there.

AMY BRITTAIN: Hi. How are you?

SHAPIRO: Good. So what is the candy industry hoping to accomplish under President Trump that it was unable to do under President Obama?

BRITTAIN: So the key issue for the candy industry is that they are looking for big reforms in the sugar industry in the United States. And one of the things that people may not realize is that candy makers and sugar growers are not on the same team when it comes to this fight.

So candy makers believe that there are artificial market caps that have been in place boosting and supporting sugar growers, and they believe that if they kind of overhaul and reform this industry, then they can make their candy for a lot cheaper.

SHAPIRO: And what have you found that the candy industry is doing to try to woo the Trump administration?

BRITTAIN: Well, they have actually booked a number of events at Trump properties across the country. So they have scheduled different conferences at the Trump National Doral resort which is outside of Miami in Florida, and they have booked a total of three conferences at the brand new Trump International Hotel in D.C.

Now, it's key to note that they did make these bookings before Trump was elected president, but you can't deny the fact now that they're in a little bit of a sticky situation when it comes to lobbying the administration at the same time that they are also engaged in big business with Trump properties.

SHAPIRO: Just could not avoid the candy pun, could you?

BRITTAIN: I could not resist. I'm sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: As you said, the sugar industry and the candy industry are not on the same page. So what do the sugar folks think about the candy folks spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on events at Trump properties?

BRITTAIN: You know, we did call the sugar group for comment, and all they would say is that they would not put anything past the candy makers.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

BRITTAIN: And it's funny because, you know, for years, the sugar growers - people have referred to them with disdain as big sugar. But now the sugar growers are turning around and pointing to the candy makers, and they're saying, look at what big candy is doing. You know, big candy will stop at nothing to get favorable action from the Trump administration.

And it is interesting to look at how many different issues, you know, different arms of the Trump administration could possibly affect when it comes to candy makers. So you talk about the FDA. You talk about the SNAP Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. You know, there have been certain regulations in different states that restrict the ability to use SNAP funds to actually purchase candy. So there are potentially a number of different arms of the administration that can affect the bottom line for candy makers.

SHAPIRO: Amy Brittain is a reporter with The Washington Post's investigative team. Thanks.

BRITTAIN: Thanks, Ari. I appreciate it.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: During this conversation, Washington Post reporter Amy Brittain says there are regulations in some states that prohibit the use of SNAP program benefits to purchase candy. In fact, while such regulations have been proposed, they have not been put in place.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: March 31, 2017 at 12:00 AM EDT
During this conversation, Washington Post reporter Amy Brittain says there are regulations in some states that prohibit the use of SNAP program benefits to purchase candy. In fact, while such regulations have been proposed, they have not been put in place.