ND Senators: Sugar subsidies in farm bill are 'critical to compromise'

The Senate is considering a $955 billion five-year farm bill that would cut nearly $24 billion from current spending levels over 10 years. Amendment votes are expected to continue throughout the week.

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Sens. Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenCarter pledges probe of sex assault testimony Pentagon looks to reduce billion energy bill Senate looks for easy wins amid 2016 gridlock MORE (D-N.H.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mark KirkMark KirkElizabeth Warren stumps, raises funds for Duckworth GOP blocks slate of Obama judicial nominees Durbin: McConnell should move criminal justice bill next month MORE (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment on Monday that would reform subsidies for sugar farmers.

"It's time to end the government's wasteful sugar program,” Toomey said. “This flawed policy is corporate welfare at its worst and hurts not only candy companies and food manufacturers, but also the families who end up paying higher costs for food made with sugar.”

But Hoeven and Heitkamp said the sugar program is vital to maintaining U.S. sugar production. They argued that because most other countries also subsidize their sugar production, U.S. farmers would be driven out of business because they wouldn’t be able to compete without the subsidies.

“We can compete if the playing field is level, but it is not level in sugar,” Heitkamp said. “Other countries have subsidized their sugar for years.”

North Dakota produces a large amount of sugar beets. Hoeven said there would be “extreme volatility in the global sugar market” if the United States ended its sugar subsidy program, which is included in S. 954.

Last year’s farm bill passed on a bipartisan 64-35 vote. A similar amendment to end sugar subsidies failed last year, getting only 46 votes.

The White House has said it supports the Senate farm bill.

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