Vote 'YES' on Shaheen-Toomey Sugar Reform Proposal | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

Vote 'YES' on Shaheen-Toomey Sugar Reform Proposal

Letters to Officials

May 20, 2013

U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator:

You will soon consider amendments to S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, more commonly referred to as the 2013 Farm Bill. As you may already be aware, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and a bipartisan group of 17 co-sponsors have introduced S. 345, the Sugar Reform Act of 2013. On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), I urge you to support this important legislation, especially if it is introduced in the form of an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill.

While our preference would be to dissolve the sugar program altogether, with its antiquated, Soviet-style command-and-control structure, the Shaheen legislation represents a welcome start. It would make modest reforms to the sugar program by rolling back the restrictive and market-distorting provisions enacted as part of the 2008 farm bill. The legislation would encourage greater competition in the U.S. sugar market, without unnecessary and costly government intrusion, through the following changes to the farm program:

  • Repealing the additional import restrictions that were adopted in 2008;
  • Repealing the Feedstock Flexibility Program, a convoluted scheme that requires the U.S. government to purchase surplus sugar and re-sell it to ethanol plants at a loss to taxpayers; and,
  • Returning sugar price supports to their pre-2008 levels.

Over the past four years, the costly Depression-era federal sugar program has imposed a $14 billion hidden food tax on American consumers and businesses in order to provide a special interest subsidy to sugar producers. U.S. sugar prices have been 64 to 92 percent higher than world averages during that period of time. Due in large part to high prices, nearly 127,000 jobs were lost in U.S. sugar-using industries between 1997 and 2011. In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that for every sugar-growing job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, approximately three American manufacturing jobs are lost. Furthermore, while only 4,700 sugar farms in the United States benefit from the federal sugar program, there are approximately 600,000 U.S. jobs in food industries that use sugar.

Following the Wall Street Journal’s March 12, 2013 report (“Big Sugar Is Set for a Sweet Bailout”) that the Feedstock Flexibility Program could force the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and ultimately, taxpayers, to pay $80 million for excess sugar due to potential sugar loan forfeitures, efforts to reform the program could not come at a better time. During this period of economic hardship and high unemployment, consumers, taxpayers, and food manufacturers deserve a break from the hidden taxes of the U.S. sugar program.

Conscientious leaders must cut back wasteful agricultural programs that have long been pushed by special interests. A small number of sugar producers and processors receive enormous benefits, while the costs are spread across the U.S. economy, hurting consumers and the sweetener-using industries. Having agreed to an earmark moratorium, lawmakers should now be working to eliminate corporate welfare programs that benefit a few select companies at the expense of hard-working American consumers and businesses.

As the nation’s debt has ballooned to more than $16.8 trillion, members of Congress should be looking for every viable way to cut wasteful spending. There is no better place to start than with the U.S. sugar program. I strongly urge you to support the Sugar Reform Act of 2013. All votes on S. 345, as either stand-alone legislation or as an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill, will be among those considered in CCAGW’s 2013 Congressional Ratings.


Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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