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Amendment would save taxpayers $72 million over ten years

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Dick Lugar (R-IN) are calling on the Senate to protect the wallets of American businesses and families by voting in favor of their common-sense, bipartisan sugar reform amendment, which maintains the basic sugar program while providing needed reform. This compromise amendment would roll back unnecessary provisions in the sugar program that were introduced in 2008 and unfairly benefit wealthy sugar farmers at the expense of consumers.  The amendment, originally introduced as Shaheen-Lugar-Kirk-Durbin-Toomey-Coats-Portman-Ayotte-Feinstein-Whitehouse Amendment #2159, and now listed as Toomey Amendment #2433, is expected to get a vote on the Senate floor Wednesday. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this amendment to the farm bill (S.3240) would save taxpayers $72 million over ten years. 

The reform amendment comes on the heels of a close vote last week on a Shaheen-Toomey amendment that would have phased out the sugar program completely. The senators presented this week’s compromise amendment as a good first step to reform.

“No program should be immune to changes. Our bipartisan sugar reform amendment is a moderate, common-sense way to modify an outdated program that keeps sugar prices artificially inflated and benefits wealthy sugar growers at the expense of taxpayers,” said Shaheen, who originally introduced the Stop Unfair Giveaways and Restrictions (SUGAR) Act (S. 25). “Ultimately, this program has outlived its usefulness and should be repealed. But this reform amendment is a good first step that will put money back in the wallets of American families and businesses. I hope my colleagues will keep that in mind as we work on the farm bill.”

“This bipartisan, common-sense reform amendment merely reverts back to agriculture policy set in place before the 2008 farm bill and supported by members of the Agriculture Committee at the time,” Toomey said. “It will save the federal government $72 million, lower sugar prices for hardworking American consumers and protect American manufacturing jobs. Reforming the U.S. sugar program makes so much sense, it has garnered support from across the political spectrum – from conservative fiscal groups, to wildlife groups, to the Teamsters. The only folks who oppose this measure are the wealthy special-interest groups who stand to benefit from taxpayer-funded subsidies.”

“The sugar program imposes billions of dollars annually in hidden taxes on consumers and businesses, and has destroyed thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.  It substitutes the federal government for the private sector in basic decisions about buying and selling, supply and price,” said Lugar, who has led efforts to roll back the sugar program throughout his 36 year career. “Sugar producers argue that their distorting program is ‘no cost’ because they don’t receive direct government payments.  But it is a government program that places the burden directly on shoppers and businesses. I encourage my fellow members to support this amendment.”

The 2008 Farm Bill added several provisions – such as restricting import quotas, mandating government purchase of surplus sugar and increasing price supports – that have kept our sugar prices artificially high relative to global competitors. This amendment would roll back these provisions and provide the Senate an opportunity to reform a program that costs consumers and businesses an estimated $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs each year.  The sugar program was notably the only agriculture commodity program that was not reformed by the Senate Agriculture Committee when it wrote the bill. 

The amendment is supported by a broad coalition of consumer, business and environmental groups including Americans for Tax Reform, Consumer Federation of America, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, National Foreign Trade Council, National Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Last week, 46 Senators voted to gradually repeal the sugar program (Amdt. 2160). Since that amendment was not adopted, however, the sugar program remains the only commodity program that has not undergone any reform in the farm bill.