WASHINGTON — Three senators, in continuing efforts to reform the U.S. sugar program, introduced the bipartisan Sugar Reform Act of 2015 on Feb. 12. A similar bill was introduced in 2014. Efforts to attach sugar reform measures as amendments to budget appropriations and the farm bill in prior years all have failed.
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat, New Hampshire), Mark Kirk (Republican, Illinois) and Pat Toomey (Republican, Pennsylvania) sponsored the 2015 bill, as they did in 2014. Fourteen other senators joined to cosponsor the legislation.
The Coalition for Sugar Reform welcomed the bill, which it said would “reform the Depression-era U.S. sugar program.”
“This legislation calls for modest reforms that will give the secretary of agriculture the flexibility to adjust marketing allotments and import quotas as needed to stabilize the U.S. sugar market – ensuring the program works for all stakeholders, not just one,” said John Downs, chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and president of the National Confectioners Association.The sugar program has incurred direct costs ($259 million in 2013) due to loan forfeitures only once in the past decade. The program was forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week at zero cost through 2024-25 under a proposed export agreement between the United States and Mexico. But supporters of reform maintain consumers bear the cost of the program through higher domestic sugar prices compared global prices. Opponents of reform say world sugar prices are kept artificially low by subsidies in most producing countries, and are below cost of production in those countries.