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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Big Sugar buddies: Nelson and Rubio help defeat plan to curtail federal sugar quota

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped defeat, for the second straight year, a move to curtail the federal sugar quota, underscoring the industry's strength in Florida and in influencing politics.

The lawmakers were among 54 senators to vote yesterday afternoon against the proposed amendment to the farm bill. A big industry in Florida, sugar has close ties to Nelson and Rubio. The Democrat Nelson got more money in the 2012 election cycle than any other member of Congress, $71,250, according to Rubio got $17,400 in his 2010 election and $5,000 in the 2012 cycle.

"Sugar is an important industry in Florida. It employs thousands and thousands of people. It has a huge tax base," Nelson said today in an interview. "There's no taxpayer subsidy. It sets a price for those who want to export-in. It's a protection measure for our domestic farmers"

Siding with sugar is one of the few areas Rubio crosses conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, which urged passage of the amendment by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

"The federal sugar program is a prime example of the federal government wrongly picking winners and losers in the private sector. It dislocates jobs, increases prices for consumers and businesses, and includes a protectionist quota that stifles freer trade," the Club for Growth said. "While this amendment doesn't call for the full elimination of the sugar program (the better solution), it does draw back some of the 2008 farm bill provisions that expanded the program. This includes the wasteful Feedstock Flexibility Program, harmful trade restrictions, and higher price support levels, among other things. We strongly support the passage of this amendment."

Last year Nelson and Rubio helped defeat a similar measure.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 2:54pm]


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