You often hear how small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. Small businesses make up a majority of jobs in the U.S., and we should never lose sight of this job-creating engine in this country, especially given real challenges small business owners face each and every day.

Navigating the gauntlet of state, local, and federal regulations is daunting, not to mention properly ensuring the health of the business, your employees, and putting the best product forward to one’s customer base.

Amidst all these challenges, Horchata Mexican Food & Bakery is incredibly proud to serve our local community right here in sunny Santa Monica. Since our founding, we have enjoyed becoming a part of this community, and we continue to delight in the enjoyment our customers have when they come back again and again for our pastries and other offerings.

But like any small business, we are looking for ways to get ahead, to lower overhead, and continue our ability to invest in you, the customer. We love it here in Santa Monica but it’s no secret that high costs pose an issue for small businesses like us. I recently learned about the U.S. sugar program, a government-sanctioned subsidy program that essentially protects domestic producers of sugar from the competition. As a business owner providing sweet treats and a diverse menu of foods, we, of course, use sugar in our products.

As a result of this federal government program, we have been over-paying for sugar for decades. In fact, the U.S. sugar program dates all the way back to the Great Depression. In form and function, it acts as a market distortion by artificially supporting a higher price on sugar produced here in this country. This alone guarantees profits for billionaire owners of mega sugar-processors here in the U.S. But it actually is far worse. The government shields these sugar producers from foreign competition, closing off the U.S. from imported sugar.

This is critically important because right now, sugar’s price in the world market is 50% cheaper than what it is today here in the U.S. So, while businesses like Horchata compete every day in this market, producers of one of our most crucial ingredients are protected from any and all market dynamics, enriching themselves with government support while prices persist at higher levels for small businesses.

Congress enables this program year after year, which costs taxpayer dollars and increases prices that families and businesses pay for all foods with sugar. Some studies have pegged this number at over $3 billion annually, and because of well connected special interests, it is businesses like us, our customers, and the American taxpayer who are forced to foot the bill.

We do have an opportunity ahead this year in Congress to once and for all, change this program. Congress is working on the Farm Bill, where this program will be considered along with other crop programs. Also, bipartisan leaders have introduced H.R. 4265 and S. 2086, the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, which will reform the program.

Santa Monica is home for us and we want to continue to grow. A change to this policy would be a major boon for food producers across the country. I applaud Senator Feinstein for her work on this issue, and I am very proud to relay that she is a lead cosponsor of this legislation in the Senate. I urge the remaining members of our congressional delegation from the Los Angeles region to cosponsor the bill as well and help bring relief to countless of small businesses in the bakery and confectionery space.

Jessica Angeles is the manager of Horchata Mexican Food and Bakery in Santa Monica.