FEATURED:

Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program

Bipartisan group of lawmakers aim to reform US sugar program
© Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation in the House and Senate that would overhaul the U.S. sugar program.

Reps. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxA 2 billion challenge: Transforming US grant reporting Trump calls North Carolina redistricting ruling ‘unfair’ Women poised to take charge in Dem majority MORE (R-N.C.) and Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBrunson release spotlights the rot in Turkish politics and judiciary Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen MORE (D-N.H.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.) are proposing a measure that would limit domestic supply restrictions and reduce market distortions caused by sugar import quotas while ensuring that taxpayers don’t pay for sugar industry bailouts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Supporters of the overhaul argue that the existing sugar program hurts businesses that use sugar as an ingredient in their products while protecting a small group of well-connected sugar producers.

Those advocates say the Sugar Policy Modernization Act could save their businesses and consumers billions every year.

"Our nation’s antiquated sugar program seeks to prop up prices for the sugar industry at every turn, sticking consumers with the bill," Foxx said.

"The way our current system is set up, taxpayers and manufacturers bear all of the risks in the form of bailouts, uncertainty and shortages, while the sugar industry reaps guaranteed rewards,” she said.

Left unchanged, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the program will cost taxpayers more than $100 million, she said.

Since 2008, the federal sugar support program has cost consumers and businesses as much as $4 billion a year, supporters say.

"This job killing subsidy program is like a vampire, refusing to die while continuing to enrich a handful of well-connected plantation owners at the expense of hundreds of thousands of confectionary jobs in the United States," Davis said.

But sugar farmers argue the legislation would hurt their business.

“A better name would be the ‘Sugar Farmer Bankruptcy Bill’ because that’s exactly what it’s designed to do,” said Galen Lee, president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

“We’re hopeful that this bill will end up just like all the others designed to enrich candy companies at the expense of America’s family farmers,” Lee said.

"We provide this country with an affordable domestic supply of an essential ingredient, and we help generate 142,000 jobs at no cost to taxpayers. Most lawmakers don’t want to upend that success story," he said.

Travis Medine, a fifth-generation Louisiana sugarcane grower, is worried the bill would cripple growers and jeopardize the future of sugar farming.

“This is serious business, and our livelihoods hang in the balance of the debate,” Medine said.

“We literally have thousands of family farms and manufacturing jobs on the line,” he said.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform, a broad-based group of food manufacturers, environmental and government advocates, applauded the legislation.

"If we’re serious about creating long-term economic success, then we need to foster a better environment for small-business growth; we need to reform the sugar program now," said John Downs, co-chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association.

"There is great potential for expanded factories, more jobs and new U.S.-based facilities if the government permitted food and beverage companies to have access to fair prices on sugar,” Downs said.

An overhaul of sugar’s Depression-era federal support program was left out of the 2014 farm bill.

“It will help American businesses of all sizes, consumers, workers and families, without costing taxpayers,” said Rick Pasco, president of the Sweetener Users Association.

“It is very rare that Congress has the chance to consider legislation that will do so much for so many,” Pasco said.

Advocates for the overhaul say the bill will ensure U.S. companies get access to the sugar they need while encouraging firms to manufacture here and not move offshore.

"Reform of the federal sugar program is long overdue,” Shaheen said. “Our current policies create heavy costs for consumers and put American jobs at risk,” she said.

Supporters of reform say that since 2014, U.S. sugar prices have averaged 65 percent higher than world prices.

The current sugar program forces American consumers and businesses to pay up to $3 billion a year to subsidize very profitable U.S. sugar processors, according to the Sweetener Users Association.

"It is time to reform this government corporate welfare program that hikes food costs for families and threatens thousands of well-paying jobs in Pennsylvania,” Toomey said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms Former Dem aide makes first court appearance on charges of posting GOP senators' info online Ex-House intern charged with 'doxing' GOP senators during Kavanaugh hearing MORE (D-N.H.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins MORE (R-Maine), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist The Senate needs to cool it MORE (D-Del.), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP senators: Mnuchin should not go to Saudi Arabia Durbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? MORE (D-Ill.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review MORE (D-Calif.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Obama to speak at campaign rally for Nevada Dems MORE (R-Nev.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms MORE (D-Va.), Edward MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDems damp down hopes for climate change agenda Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports EPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ MORE (D-Mass.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainComey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? MORE (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillElection Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach Dems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE (D-Mo.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms How Kavanaugh got the votes  Collins to support Kavanaugh, securing enough votes for confirmation MORE (R-Ohio), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel MORE (D-Va.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPavlich: The left’s identity politics fall apart Graham: It would be 'like, terrible' if a DNA test found I was Iranian Iranian-American group calls on Graham to apologize for 'disgusting' DNA remark MORE (D-Mass.).