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Senators Introduce Bill to Cut Sugar Program

Feb 13, 2015
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

This is an excerpt reprinted with permission from The Hagstrom Report, a news service providing original national and international agricultural news to its subscribers.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.(pictured); Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., today reintroduced the Sugar Reform Act, which would change domestic supply restrictions and lower price support levels.

The senators introduced the bill in the last Congress, but it was not included in the farm bill.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Dan Coats, R-Ind.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Although the sugar program operates at no net cost to the taxpayer except under conditions of unusually low prices, Shaheen said, “Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a sweet deal for a small group of sugar producers and processors. This is a perfect example of an outdated government program that’s hurting consumers, putting taxpayer dollars at risk and costing jobs.

“It’s time we acted on this bipartisan reform effort and put money back in the wallets of American families and businesses,” she added.

John Downs, chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and president of the National Confectioners Association, said the bill calls for “modest reforms that will give the secretary of Agriculture the flexibility to adjust marketing allotments and import quotas as needed to stabilize the U.S. sugar market — ensuring the program works for all stakeholders, not just one.”

The American Sugar Alliance, which represents cane and beet growers, opposes the legislation.

Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the alliance, said, “It is unfortunate that opponents of agriculture are working so hard to reopen the new farm bill, which was the result of years of thoughtful debate and more than 40 hearings. A farm bill is America’s five-year contract with the men and women who feed and clothe the nation, and farmers and ranchers deserve certainty rather than coming under constant attack just one year into that bill.”

“When it comes to sugar policy, lawmakers clearly spoke during the farm bill process and voted five times to reject misguided efforts just like this,” Hayes added. “U.S. sugar policy is by far the least costly major commodity policy in the farm bill, operating at zero taxpayer cost 11 of the past 12 years, and projected by the USDA to remain no cost for the next 10 years. This bill would gut a successful policy, jeopardize 142,000 U.S. jobs, and outsource America’s sugar production to unreliable, heavily subsidized foreign suppliers.”

The Hagstrom Report covers Congressional hearings, markups and press conferences in Washington D.C., as well as national nutrition news and farm meetings throughout the United States. Subscribers to The Hagstrom Report receive a digital newsletter daily while Congress is in session and at other times as events require and news happens.

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