By Brittany Jablonsky, NFU government relations representative

Today the Senate plans to finish up its work on the 2012 Farm Bill, including a vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and cosponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., to eliminate the sugar program. This amendment would be disastrous for family sugar growers in the United States, as well as for the entire domestic sugar industry, in a time when we ought to be doing all we can to protect American jobs and support our homegrown businesses.

The Senate has voted on this issue before, leading up to the farm bill debate. On June 13, the Senate narrowly passed a motion to table a similar measure with a 50-46 vote. Today’s vote on the Toomey amendment has a real chance of passing, which is why your Senators need to hear from you today. Below is a list of Senators it is particularly important to contact:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
  • Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
  • Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
  • Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del.
  • Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
  • Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
  • Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
  • Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
  • Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
  • Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
  • Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.
  • Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
  • Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
  • Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

How does the sugar program work? There are a lot of myths about the program and its cost to the American public. First, no taxpayer funds go to farmers or refiners (which are farmer-owned cooperatives), and the program isn’t what would be considered a farm “subsidy.” There are three main components to the program’s function: 1) limiting foreign imports to only those required by our trade agreement obligations, 2) limiting the amount of sugar American farmers can sell, and 3) diverting surpluses caused by excessive imports into ethanol production. This allows the price of sugar to remain relatively stable and eliminates the market volatility and uncertainty that plagues farmers of all other commodities. The sugar program is a model for how all commodity programs should operate.

Eliminating this farmer- and consumer-friendly policy would remove the safety net from underneath American sugar farmers, putting them out of business and ensuring that our country is entirely dependent upon imported sugar. To call your Senators’ office, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and you will be connected directly with the Senate office you request. Additionally, the Senate is likely to vote on final passage of the farm bill today, so make sure you also mention your overall support of the bill.

See the Senate’s website for a complete list of amendments to be considered today.