(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) its May 2013 Porker of the Month for her sour comments on sugar reform in the Senate version of the 2013 farm bill. The United States sugar program, a misguided relic of the 1930s that CAGW has opposed for many years, arbitrarily protects a select few large and prosperous sugar producers at the expense of U.S. consumers and manufacturers of sugar-containing products and their workers.
In the days leading up to the final farm bill vote in the Senate, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) proposed amendment #925 in an effort to reform import quotas and domestic production limits on sugar that have caused American consumers to pay an average of more than twice the world price for the product since 1982. On May 22, Sen. Landrieu made her opposition to commonsense reform clear, stating that she would focus on “protecting and supporting the sugar program that functions effectively to balance the amount of sugar coming into our country at no subsidy to the taxpayer,” adding, “yes, the price of a candy bar might be a penny or two higher, but who needs cheaper candy bars? No one.”
Sen. Landrieu’s rhetorical confection ignores the sugar program’s enormous costs to consumers and belies the cost to taxpayers. In 2012, American consumers would have saved $2.9 billion if they had been allowed to purchase sugar at the world price. Further, the sugar program disadvantages American businesses that rely on sugar as an input, giving competitors in Canada and abroad the upper hand in the market for candy, bread, fruit juice, baked beans, applesauce, and any other sugar-using product. Indeed, between 1997 and 2011, the sugar-using industry lost 127,000 jobs in the United States.
In Canada, where sugar can be bought at the world price, the value of sugar and confectionary product manufacturing exports to the U.S. grew from $621 million in 1997 to $1.56 billion in 2011, an increase of 157 percent. Finally, the Federal Feedstock Program, created in the 2008 farm bill, requires the government to buy surplus sugar to be resold to ethanol producers at a loss and is projected to cost taxpayers $193 million over the next ten years. Clearly, American competitors in sugar-using product industries “need” cheaper candy bars. Unfortunately, Sen. Landrieu’s efforts appear to have paid off. Yesterday, Amendment #925 was rejected by a vote of 44-54, with Sen. Landrieu joining status-quo corporate welfare crowd.
“Sen. Landrieu’s antagonism toward sugar reform is plainly misguided,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The sugar program is the epitome of government picking winners and pre-determining market outcomes. Consumers unnecessarily spend billions each year on a program that kills jobs, guarantees an inadequate supply, and subsidizes wealthy corporations. Worse, high sugar prices translate to costlier groceries that disproportionately hurt the poorest Americans. Sen. Landrieu would do well to remember that each of her constituents is a consumer and taxpayer. Her outspoken preference for corporate welfare over the welfare of ordinary citizens is tasteless at best.”
For her blatant self-serving spinning of the facts of an obsolete sugar program, Sen. Mary Landrieu is CAGW’s May 2013 Porker of the Month. We were going to name her the Sugar-Glazed Ham of the Month, but it was too expensive.
CAGW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.
Visit Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for more information