U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) renewed their effort to make commonsense, price-saving reforms to the U.S. sugar program this afternoon when they introduced the Shaheen-Kirk Sugar Reform Act at a joint press conference with Congressmen Joe Pitts (R-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Danny Davis (D-IL).
"American families are footing the bill for an outdated program that offers a sweet deal to a small group of sugar growers and processors. No program should be immune to updates or improvements, not while we're losing valuable manufacturing jobs all over the country as businesses close or move abroad in search of lower sugar prices," Shaheen said. "The Sugar Reform Act is a practical and pragmatic fix that will put money back in the wallets of American families and businesses while upholding a safety net for American sugar growers."
The Sugar Reform Act maintains the basic sugar program while making commonsense reforms that protect the wallets of American families and businesses. The federal sugar program has cost consumers and businesses an estimated $14 billion over the last 4 years, and 112,000 jobs have been lost in sugar-using industries between 1997-2009. This bipartisan legislation will reform domestic supply restrictions, lower price support levels and ensure adequate sugar supplies at reasonable prices, rolling back unnecessary provisions added in 2008 that unfairly benefit wealthy sugar farmers at the expense of consumers.
This measure nearly cleared the Senate last summer during debate over the Senate's Farm Bill when it received 46 votes in support after it was offered as an amendment. This bipartisan coalition plans to build on that momentum and make much-needed reforms to this outdated program.
"Illinois is the 'Candy Capital of the world,' but in the last decade the number of jobs in the industry has steadily decreased because of our current policies, which artificially inflate the price of sugar," said Kirk, who maintains the famous Senate "candy desk" with candy stocked from Illinois companies, which employ over 3,000 people. "The SUGAR Act will end unfair pricing in the industry and keep companies from shipping skilled manufacturing jobs overseas."
"It's time to reform the government's wasteful sugar program. This flawed policy hurts not only candy companies and food manufacturers, but also the families who end up paying higher costs for products made with sugar," Toomey said. "This bipartisan reform will provide important relief to a very prominent sector of Pennsylvania's economy and to those families purchasing these products."
"Today, we're joining across the aisle and across the country to make the federal sugar program fairer for U.S. food companies struggling with foreign competitors," Pitts said. "It's time for the government to reform the protectionist policies that are hurting American workers and consumers. At its heart, our bipartisan bill is about protecting American jobs."
"We need more commonsense solutions that make government smarter, more efficient, and simpler," Blumenauer said. "The wasteful and inefficient sugar program is something that many of us have been fighting for decades, and it's finally getting the attention that it deserves. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation and find other opportunities to make government work better."
"Left unchanged, the current sugar program will continue to hurt American workers by driving good American manufacturing jobs to Canada, Mexico, and other foreign countries. Left unchanged, the current sugar program will continue to hurt American consumers by unnecessarily inflating the price of every product made with sugar. It is time to change this anachronistic program," Davis said.