NEW YORK (Reuters) - Three senators on Thursday introduced a bill to overhaul the U.S. government's controversial sugar program, aiming to lower price-support levels and change domestic supply restrictions.
The sugar program has cost consumers more than $14 billion since 2008, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who introduced the legislation, said in a news release.
In addition to lowering price supports that U.S. sugar farmers get - which proponents say help growers at times of low market prices - the bill would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture more flexibility in doling out domestic supply allotments.
The lawmakers have repeatedly tried to reforms the U.S. sugar program.
Shaheen led a coalition in June 2014 that pushed for similar reforms through an amendment to budget appropriations. The three senators introduced the same reform measure a year ago. They previously pushed for it as an amendment to the farm bill, but their proposal failed to win approval in May 2013.
Supporters of the existing sugar support program say that it usually operates at no additional government cost and supports farmers.
The bill arrives in a tumultuous time for the sugar industry, as participants await a decision from the U.S. government on whether to maintain duties on imports from Mexico, the country's top foreign supplier.
Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis