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Sweet-Toothed Senators Push Back on Sugar Supports

(Courtesy Office of Sen. Mark S. Kirk)
(Courtesy Office of Sen. Mark S. Kirk)

The Senate’s candy desk sits  in the back row of the Republican side of the chamber, and it is filled with all sorts of sugary confections from Illinois, the home state of its occupant, Republican Mark S. Kirk.

Kirk’s office says that more than 3,000 people work in the candy business in Illinois.

Kirk is one of three senators leading a push to reduce price-support levels for sugar. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., and Kirk will reintroduce their sugar program overhaul as an amendment to this year’s farm bill after it reaches the Senate floor Monday afternoon.

“The sugar program is broken and this is a smart, commonsense fix.  Right now, American families are footing the bill for an outdated program that offers a sweet deal to a small group of sugar growers and processors. All the while, we’re losing manufacturing jobs all over the country as a result,” Shaheen said in a statement.

Our colleague Kent Cooper at Political MoneyLine last week pointed to  $567,500 in contributions so far in 2013 to federal candidates and committees by American Crystal Sugar Company PAC. Cooper also noted $1,004,117 in federal lobbying expenditures by the PAC.

Last year, the Senate rejected, 46-53, an amendment that Toomey offered to roll back increases in sugar price supports set under the 2008 farm bill. Supporters of the sugar policy have said it has a negligible effect on the federal budget, but senators backing the amendment point to a $14 billion price tag for consumers.

Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said during last year’s debate that the Toomey amendment threatened 142,000 jobs in the sugar industry.

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