The American Bakers Association (ABA), Washington, strongly urged the U.S. Senate last week to vote in favor of an amendment to the Agriculture Food, Farm and Jobs Act, or the Senate Farm Bill, reforming the current U.S. sugar program.

“The current sugar program costs consumers as much as $3.5 billion a year and sacrifices 20,000 domestic manufacturing jobs annually,” says ABA President and CEO Robb MacKie, in a letter to the Senate. “With today’s anemic job growth, it is unconscionable that Congress would continue to support a program that encourages businesses both large and small to move offshore.”

The sugar program has been a windfall program for sugar growers, adds Cory Martin, ABA’s senior manager of government relations. “While bakers have been paying record high prices for U.S. sugar, growers have been enjoying a program that subsidizes their industry by billions each year.”

“Even the Canadian government has recognized the benefits of the U.S. sugar program,” Martin says, referring to a brochure from the Canadian government urging U.S. food producers to move their production facilities to Canada to gain access to the world sugar market. According to the Canadian government, bakers could save 30 to 40% on sugar costs by relocating production up north. “Why anyone would support a program that encourages companies to move production offshore is beyond me,” he says. “Yet, we’ve had the sugar program in place for decades, leading to the loss of over 125,000 jobs between 1997 and 2010.”

ABA reports that the Senate was to begin floor deliberations of the 2012 Farm Bill last week, with votes possibly extending until the end of June.