U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) expressed their disappointment today in the Senate's failure to pass a bipartisan amendment to the farm bill (S. 3240) that would reform the U.S. sugar program and reduce the cost of sugar. The amendment failed 46-53.
The amendment would:
Repeal the Feedstock Flexibility program, which will cost $193 million in the next 10 years. The program was added to the 2008 farm bill and requires the federal government to buy surplus sugar, which is then sold to ethanol companies at a loss.
Repeal unnecessary trade restrictions, freeing up the Agriculture secretary to increase sugar imports when domestic supplies do not meet demand.
Give the USDA more flexibility in administering the import quota system, allowing qualifying countries to trade their quotas among each other, ensuring that American companies receive an adequate supply of sugar.
Reform domestic supply restrictions, giving the USDA more flexibility to modify or suspend marketing allotments. The 2008 bill set an artificial guarantee of 85 percent of consumption. This amendment would give the USDA more flexibility to determine how much sugar producers can sell.
Eliminate higher price support levels, reducing taxpayers' liability. The 2008 bill increased loan rates, driving up prices for sugar-consuming industries.
The amendment was introduced by Sen. Toomey and co-sponsored by Sens. Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lugar (R-Ind.).
"Today's vote was a defeat for American consumers and American jobs and a victory for the deep-pocketed special interests," Sen. Toomey said. "The U.S. sugar program is essentially a transfer of wealth from consumers, including the poorest Americans, to a handful of wealthy sugar producers. In this era of sky-rocketing deficits and stagnant economic growth, I am disappointed that my colleagues rejected a common-sense amendment that would save the U.S. government $72 million and protect American manufacturing jobs. The American people deserve better."
"It is clear that the sugar program needs to be reformed, and today we saw strong support for that. I am grateful to so many of our Senate colleagues who stood with us on behalf of American families and businesses. Though our amendment did not pass, rest assured that I will continue to fight to end wasteful programs and to save taxpayers' money," said Sen. Shaheen, who originally introduced the Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions (SUGAR) Act (S. 25).
"Sugar reform is an essential step toward farmers, businesses and markets working without government involvement. The beneficiaries of the program have only been a small handful of producers, and the cost to consumers and businesses has been up to $3.5 billion a year. It is time for it to end or, at a minimum, pass substantial reform toward winding up the program," said Sen. Lugar, former chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.