Pitts and Toomey back Sugar Reform Act
Tout proposal at Pepperidge Farm Pitts and Toomey back Sugar Reform Act BY KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
The makers of some sweet treats say the nation's sugar policy is a sour deal.
Pepperidge Farm officials joined U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts at a press conference Tuesday at the company's Denver plant to support legislation that they say would likely lower prices at the grocery store.
Toomey, Pennsylvania's Republican senator, and Pitts, Lancaster County's Republican congressman, are pushing bills in Washington that would phase out a sugar price-support program that food manufacturers complain unfairly raises the cost of sugar.
"This flawed policy is corporate welfare at its worst and hurts not only food manufacturers, but also the families who end up paying higher costs for food made with sugar," Toomey said at the press event.
The two lawmakers are proponents of the Sugar Reform Act, which would scale back price supports for sugar and reduce restrictions on buying more sugar on the international market.
Presently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes loans to sugar growers annually and limits the amount of imported sugar as part of a Great Depression-era bill.
Because Pennsylvania plays a large part in the food manufacturing business, Toomey and Pitts have been at the forefront of the effort to scale back the program.
"I'm confident that this bipartisan approach to reform will provide important relief to a prominent sector of Pennsylvania's economy and help protect taxpayers," Toomey said.
Pepperidge Farm, which is owned by Campbell Soup Company, would see a direct benefit from the bill.
Kelly Johnston, vice president of government affairs for Campbell's, said the company currently buys 30 million pounds of sugar a year at prices 70 to 90 percent higher than what its competitors pay in other countries.
"The program we have now makes it hard to sell our products overseas and compete in the global market," he said.
Pitts said that rolling back the price of sugar could result in more manufacturing jobs here and keep candy production from moving overseas.
"We need to put our people on a more competitive playing field," Pitts said.
The lawmakers also pointed to a 2006 U.S. Commerce Department report that found that for every job the sugar program saves, it kills three manufacturing jobs.
"These reforms would help create good jobs at a time when we need to be working for a better job market," Toomey said.
While the legislation has bipartisan support from more than 50 lawmakers in Washington, it does have its critics.
Some farm groups argue that the bill will hurt sugar farmers, and will gut the domestic market so manufacturers can spend less on foreign sugar without passing the savings on to consumers.