The sugar program was addressed repeatedly by lawmakers throughout the day. “Some of our colleagues are trying to strip the sugar program out of the bill,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who pointed out 30,000 jobs based in Minnesota’s Red River region rely on the industry. “American sugar is actually much less expensive than the price in the global marketplace. The sugar program works. It works for workers, it works for America.”

The back-and-forth on the sugar program was kicked off in earnest when New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen – claiming the commodity was the only one not touched in the proposed farm bill -- offered an amendment that would have done away with current sugar policies.

The amendment pushback was swift. Without the sugar policies, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp argued, some 142,000 jobs could be affected.

Shaheen’s amendment failed on a 44 to 54 vote.

Late in the day, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu thanked fellow lawmakers for voting the sugar amendment down as the program, “has worked at no cost to the taxpayer. … There are two sides to this issue and I think the evidence on our side is stronger.”

In Louisiana, Landrieu continued, sugarcane is being produced on over 427,000 in 22 parishes. Production is about 14 million tons – about 20 percent of the total sugar produced in the United States.

“Last year, Louisiana sugar mills produced 1.6 tons of raw sugar, the largest amount ever produced in our state. This production represents a huge part of our state’s economy and the loss of market for these products would be devastating.”

States with large sugar beet crops are similarly dependent on the sugar program, Landrieu said. “Are consumers hurt by this? Absolutely not. The U.S. sugar price is 14 percent below the world average and 24 percent below the average for developed nations. So, our policy is a good balance of encouraging domestic production and keeping prices stable and affordable for the consumer.”