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Sugar Subsidy Remains in Farm Bill After Amendment Defeated

The Senate rejected an amendment backed by snack-food and beverage companies that would have phased out federal government aid to U.S. sugar growers, including marketing quotas and import restrictions.

Today’s vote was 50-46 in favor of tabling the amendment, effectively killing the plan.

Unlike other crop initiatives that send farmers payments, the sugar program keeps prices high primarily by limiting imports, harming consumers and companies, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the sponsor of the amendment, said yesterday on the Senate floor. “This outdated program puts American companies at a competitive disadvantage, and it should go,” the New Hampshire Democrat said.

The Coalition for Sugar Reform supported the amendment. Its members include industry groups representing bakers and makers of candy, snack foods, beverages and other groceries, as well as small-government organizations. The amendment would have ended all price supports for the sweetener by 2015 and ended the quota on imports.

“Each and every time this amendment comes up for a vote it is rejected by Congress and we wouldn’t expect any different today,” Phillip Hayes, spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance that represents cane- and beet-sugar growers, said before the vote.

Food Stamps

The Senate also rejected, 65-33, a plan offered by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul to reduce spending on the food-stamp program and allocate funds as block grants to the states. Opponents of the measure said giving states more flexibility would inevitably lead to needy families not receiving food aid. Spending on food stamps has doubled in the past four years as the economy slowed.

Lawmakers are debating the five-year farm bill approved in April by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Congressional Budget Office said the measure would produce $23.6 billion in savings, if scored over a 10-year period, primarily by doing away with direct payments to farmers, which are paid out regardless of crop prices.

Senate leaders are still crafting the “final universe” of amendments to be debated on the floor, Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, told reporters today. Almost 250 amendments had been introduced as of yesterday evening.

The bill is S. 3240.

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