"Special interests groups supporting the USDA sugar program have long touted the argument that the sugar program is statutorily obligated to operate at "no cost" to the American taxpayer. This claim appears to hold true only when the loan program, which is really a price-support program, operates under favorable economic conditions and if USDA doesn't sell excess sugar at an unmanageable loss to ethanol producers using the USDA Feedstock Flexibility Program," the letter said.
"Eighty-million dollars does not mean "no cost" to any hardworking, taxpaying American family," the Senators added.
Reform group looks for other options
Toomey, Shaheen and Kirk aren't new to sugar policy. Last month, the group introduced legislation that would reform domestic supply restrictions, lower price support levels and lower sugar prices.
The bill was similar to an amendment Toomey introduced during farm bill talks last summer, and would nullify sugar program changes made in the 2008 Farm Bill.
Shaheen, Kirk and McCain also offered separate amendments to the Senate's continuing resolution Friday, which would withhold funding for the Feedstock Flexibility Program – the provision that requires USDA to sell excess sugar to ethanol producers at a loss – and the federal loan program that subsidizes sugar producers.
The Coalition for Sugar Reform disagrees with the American Sugar Alliance about the sugar program, saying that world sugar prices are higher in the U.S., costing consumers.
"Despite a lot of ads and empty rhetoric from the sugar lobby to the contrary, we are not looking to put domestic producers out of business. We need a healthy domestic sugar industry, but what we are asking Congress to do is to help ensure the sugar program works for businesses and consumers, not just one special interest group," said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association and Chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform.