Trick or Treat? Senators Say Sugar Subsidies Are No Sweet Deal

Senators use sweet holiday to lobby against sugar.

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Lawmakers sent this spooky note to colleagues on Halloween warning against sugar price supports.
Lawmakers sent this spooky note to colleagues on Halloween warning against sugar price supports.

Senators Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.,long-time advocates against the U.S. sugar program, sent fellow lawmakers scary cards for the holiday reminding them there's a trick in all those halloween treats.

[READ: Does Chris Christie Secretly Hate Halloween?]

The senators couldn't resist the "sweet" opportunity to lobby against the U.S. sugar program, a depression-era price control law that protects sugar producers from international competition by reducing the number of imports and restricting the amount of sugar farmers can sell.

"Halloween provides a disturbing reminder of sugar's sweet deal," Shaheen said. "Sugar is the most tightly controlled commodity market in our country, and this outdated policy is costing our country jobs and hurting our economy."

The cards depict blood-dripping text asking "what is the scariest part of Halloween?"

Senators say the "frightening cost" of the sugar program has cost the federal government $250 million since July.

Shaheen and Kirk are using the infamously sugar-filled holiday to remind staffers and lawmakers on Capitol hill that U.S. candy makers are sending jobs overseas because of the program.

"It's time we end this unfair pricing scheme that protects a select few sugar growers unnecessarily. Our bill offers a commonsense solution to help to bring the 125,000 skilled manufacturing jobs that were forced abroad by this program back to the U.S. where they belong," Kirk said.

The effort to lobby against the U.S. sugar program comes as the Senate and House sit down to hammer out a bipartisan farm bill. So far, the U.S. sugar program remains unchanged in both the Senate and House versions of the agriculture legislation, but Shaheen and Kirk are using the farm bill conference to urge lawmakers to sign onto their Sugar Reform Act.

[ALSO: Sugar in Crosshairs on Senate Farm Bill]

The sugar program has haunted confectioners like Hershey, Mars, and Just Born, the company that makes Peeps, for decades. The National Confectioners' Association, which represents the interests of candy makers across the country, spent $363,581 lobbying in 2013, but that's just a fraction of the $7.1 million sugar groups spent on Capitol Hill.

Sugar producers aren't impressed by the Halloween charade and argue they need the sugar program to ensure market security. Sugar farmers say that Shaheen and Kirk are just trying to spook fellow senators.

"It's just a stunt," says Luther Markwart, the executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers and advocate for the U.S. sugar program. "They had several votes and chances and they failed on all of them."

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