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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Jun 3, 2013

New Report Highlights Need To Reform The Farm Bill's Sugar Program

Changes made to the federal sugar program in the 2008 farm bill have caused sugar prices to spike to record levels, which hurts businesses, manufacturers and consumers, a new report from the food and agriculture consulting company Agralytica shows.

Extra consumer costs due to the 2008 farm bill have tallied about $3.7 billion each year, according to the report (PDF) released Monday. Currently, sugar prices in the United States are about 46 cents per pound, which is higher than 28 cents per pound under the 2002 farm bill.

Sugar producers in the United States and Mexico have responded to the high prices in the U.S. market by expanding sugar production by 20 percent to 25 percent, said Agralytica’s Vice President Tom Earley.

The 2008 changes have made “a bad program even worse and have destabilized the U.S. sugar market,” said Earley, who is also an agricultural economist and trade policy specialist.

“Now we have too much sugar that’s driving prices down that’s going to result in significant costs for the government,” he explained.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu May 30, 2013

Struggling Small Business Owners Seek Help From Cook County Commissioners

Chicago small business owners and Northwest Side residents say local businesses are dying off, and they need Cook County officials to intervene. 

"We, of course, have been slaughtered in the recession in the last four to five years," said Mark Thomas, owner of The Alley Chicago, at a Cook County economic development forum Thursday morning.

Thomas told Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Commissioners Edwin Reyes (8th) and John Fritchey (12th) that landlords should see some sort of tax incentive to encourage them to rent space to local businesses rather than chain stores.

Elise Doody-Jones, a small business owner in Logan Square, added that rents are too expensive. The high rents are a burden for neighborhood businesses and can often discourage small business owners to set up shop, she said.

Larger corporations generally do not move their businesses into communities until they feel the demographics and income levels are right, she explained.

"It's really the small businesses who run on a shoestring that step in," she said. "But the rents are too high because the property taxes are too high." 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu May 23, 2013

Senate Votes Down Amendment To Reform 'Outdated' Sugar Program In Farm Bill

Reforming the sugar program in the nation's farm bill would make U.S. manufacturers more competitive and reduce prices for consumers, said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), co-sponsor of an amendment to revamp the system.

The amendment, S. 345, did not seek to eliminate the program. Instead, it aimed to reform restrictions on imports as well as subsidies for sugar growers, along with other changes. But the Senate rejected the amendment by a 45-54 vote Wednesday.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the need to protect America’s sugar farmers, but what we haven’t heard is that sugar remains the most tightly controlled commodity market in this country,” Shaheen said during floor discussion in the Senate Wednesday. “We currently have an outdated ... program that offers a sweet deal to a small group of sugar growers and processors at the expense of too many other American businesses and at the expense of American consumers.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Apr 15, 2013

Duckworth Discusses Concerns About Cuts To Social Security, Medicare With Elgin Residents

Residents of the 8th congressional district are terrified that their Social Security and Medicare benefits are going to be cut, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D, IL-8) said after an hourlong meet and greet with constituents in Elgin this weekend.

“They’re barely making ends meet,” Duckworth told Progress Illinois at her third Congress at Your Corner event, held at the Gail Borden Library. “Whatever we do to balance our nation’s budget, it cannot be on the backs of these people.”

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Tue Apr 9, 2013

Small Business Owners Talk Corporate Tax Reform, Offshore Havens Via New Poll

America’s small business owners overwhelmingly oppose the use of offshore tax havens by large corporations and support closing loopholes to end the tax-dodging practice, a new poll from the American Sustainable Business Council and Main Street Alliance shows.

The poll of 515 small business owners from across the country comes as Congress attempts to address tax reform. Gov. Pat Quinn is also looking to close a few corporate tax loopholes at the local level.

“There’s widespread agreement that the current tax system is broken and is not serving the best interests of the economy or the country,” said Joshua Welter, director of special projects for the Main Street Alliance. “There is growing momentum to do something this year.”

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
Mon Apr 8, 2013

Schneider Launches Initiative To Support Small Businesses

Freshman lawmaker U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D, IL-10) met with constituents in Gurnee today in an effort to better understand the needs of small business owners in his district.

“If I’m going to represent the district, I have to understand what makes up the district” said Schneider, who has visited 17 small businesses since taking office earlier this year.