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Expressing Sense of House Relating to Tariff-Rate Quotas for Raw and Refined Sugar

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of the resolution and call on the House to support reforming the sugar program in upcoming negotiations on the farm bill.

Just a few months ago, I offered a reform amendment to the farm bill that gained unprecedented support and which made modest, but essential, reforms to our government's sugar program. Today, we debate this resolution, one that is even more modest but just as critical to bringing stability and balance to our sugar market. As a matter of fact, my resolution is even more timely. Following our debate on this program, the government began shoveling out money to support sugar growers--$250 million worth in 4 months. We were told by the opposing side that it operated at no cost. We need to address this wasteful practice.

Mr. Speaker, every single one of us has a small food business in his district. Sugar is an essential ingredient even in many foods that aren't necessarily sweet. We all know how hard it is on small businesses right now. We know how critical these jobs are to our economy. Shouldn't we do everything we can to help them grow strong?

Today, millions of American families are on tight budgets. They watch their spending carefully, especially when it comes to buying food; and when they walk down the grocery aisle, they may not realize the costs that go into the products that they buy for themselves and their children. Very few of them know that they are paying significantly more for these products in order to ensure the profits of a small handful of sugar producers. They don't realize that, altogether, Americans are paying an additional $3.5 billion a year because of a government sugar program that makes little sense.

Tens of millions of Americans are looking for jobs. Many don't understand why there isn't more work available right now. What they don't know is that a nationwide industry is suffering because we have a sugar program that favors the few over the many. There are more than 600,000 jobs in sugar-using industries today. However, that industry has seen tough times. More than 127,000 jobs have been lost since the late 1990s. The Department of Commerce estimates that, for every one job the sugar program saves, three are lost in sugar-using industries. The sugar program is a bad deal for businesses, for consumers, for job seekers, and for taxpayers. When the House passed a farm bill this summer, every single commodity program was reformed except for one--the sugar program.

The sugar program is probably more in need of reform than any other commodity. The program controls prices to ensure that at all times sugar farmers and producers profit. When prices are high, as they were for 4 out of the last 5 years, producers do very well. When prices are low, the government buys sugar and makes sure that farmers and producers make their money back. This isn't a functioning sugar market. It is a nonstop bailout.

Meanwhile, the world price for sugar is typically much lower than here in the United States, and this is a big advantage for foreign competitors. In fact, Canada even advertises their access to the world sugar market as a reason for American companies to relocate or to build new facilities in their nation. Mexican food companies also have lower and more stable prices and the advantages of importing products to the U.S. under NAFTA. Simply put, we are handicapping our food industries at a time when they face intense competition. Good jobs are flowing out of the U.S. into other nations.

In the farm bill we sent over to the Senate, every single commodity program was reformed except for sugar. Dairy farmers, peanut growers, cotton growers, and many more will all see changes to their programs. The resolution on the House floor today proposes a modest change to the sugar program.

Currently, the Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to manage imports of sugar for 6 months out of the year. The other 6 months of the year, he can do nothing even if prices spike unreasonably high. The Secretary basically has to make an educated guess about how much sugar should be imported. The way the statute is written, the Secretary must err on the side of the growers and producers. This means that, if the guess is wrong, Big Sugar benefits and consumers get fleeced.

It is time that we put an end to a policy that makes little sense--a policy that didn't even exist until the 2008 farm bill. This is a failed experiment that has hurt lots of people and has helped only a handful.

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful that this resolution is on the floor today. I believe that the House should make a strong statement--that our conferees should work to get good reform to the sugar program in this year's farm bill. I am also grateful for the bipartisan support for this measure. At a time when it seems like Democrats and Republicans can't agree on much, we have a very strong bipartisan group working across the aisle to stand up for consumers, for job seekers, for businesses, and for taxpayers.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PITTS. Madam Speaker, in conclusion, again, this is reform. It is not a repeal of the sugar program. It is a very modest reform, simply going back to what the Secretary had before 2008 with the ability, the flexibility to allow sugar imports, when necessary, to meet domestic demand.

It allows sugar farmers to retain their price supports. It helps save American taxpayers and consumers money, about $3.5 billion per year. It helps protect hundreds of thousands of good American manufacturing jobs. It does not require the import of a single additional pound of sugar, and it reduces market manipulation.

Madam Speaker, I urge the Members on both sides of the aisle to support this resolution. And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. All time for debate has expired.

Pursuant to House Resolution 380, the previous question is ordered on the resolution.

The question is on the resolution.

The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.

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