Senators debating a five-year farm bill have voted to uphold current policy that protects the nation's sugar growers with price supports and import restrictions.
The vote was 50-46 to block an amendment to end the Depression-era program that benefits about 5,000 beet and sugar cane growers.
The farm bill, while ending some subsidies such as direct payments to farmers, leaves the sugar program intact. Those backing changes said the program keeps sugar prices nearly twice world averages, costing businesses and consumers some $3.5 billion a year.
But Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the Agriculture Committee chair, said it creates a stable marketplace for American producers at no price to taxpayers.
Growers support the existing program while food and beverage companies that use sugar oppose it.