Senate rejects punitive sugar measure

The U.S. Senate Farm Bill stayed sweet to Louisiana sugar farmers.

The Senate Farm Bill passed Wednesday. The House has not yet passed its farm bill.

Louisiana Senators Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, and David Vitter, R-Metairie, voted against the Shaheen-Toomey amendment. The amendment would have ended federal import restrictions and cap farm insurance subsidies. The amendment was defeated 45-64.

“This policy works for the country and strikes a good balance of encouraging domestic production, and keeping prices stable and affordable for the consumer,” Landrieu said. “I am glad this amendment was defeated and I will continue to stand with our sugar industry against similar efforts in the future.”

The amendment would have devastated Louisiana’s sugarcane growers and the domestic sugar industry, Landrieu said.

“Defeating this amendment was very important for the people of Louisiana and our sugarcane growers. Current sugar policy supports 27,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in economic activity each year for our state, and at no-cost to the taxpayer.”

While the sugar program is often described as a “no-net cost” program, it in fact imposes costs, according to Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., co-sponsor of the failed amendment. Artificially high sugar prices cost consumers as much as an additional $3.5 billion a year, and create an undue burden on manufacturers in the sugar-using sector, he said.

The American Sugar Alliance, which backs American Cane and Beet farmers in the production of sugar, said it is willing to eliminate U.S. sugar policy once foreign subsidies are addressed so a free market can take hold, but expressed caution in unilaterally disarming and becoming dependent on subsidized foreign suppliers.

The ASA said that heavily subsidized sugar from Mexico and Brazil threatens the U.S. industry and must be addressed for a free market to emerge and it promotes a “zero-for-zero strategy” that rewards the best business people and which it says would eliminate the need for U.S. sugar policy.

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