HOBART | U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar didn't sugarcoat his message Tuesday as he toured a regional candy company on U.S. 30.

"A spoonful of sugar costs us nearly twice as much in this country because of the federal government's current sugar policy," Lugar said.

Lugar, a Republican facing a primary challenge next year from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, said he is working to change the sugar policy in existence since the New Deal programs enacted in the 1930s.

Prior to the tour of Albanese Nut and Candy Co., Lugar was greeted by Scott Albanese, who heads the family-owned business.

"Tell the government to leave us alone," Albanese told Lugar. "We appreciate that your are leading the charge."

Lugar is proposing -- as part of the Free Sugar Act of 2011 -- to eliminate the federally-mandated program that controls the supply of sugar available to Americans. Lugar said his reform would free small businesses and consumers from paying government-inflated prices.

"The price of sugar affects food and beverage costs for all Americans, as small businesses and confectioners are forced to raise prices for items such as bread, tomato sauce, peanut butter and other common foods that contain sugar," Lugar said.

Lugar said Albanese is the latest of several confectioneries he has visited across the state as part of a so-called "sweet jobs" tour.

Lugar also stopped Tuesday in Porter County to speak to the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce.

While there he called on local business owners and educators to help him come up with solutions for providing the education or training needed to enable more people to find jobs.

"I was delighted to be invited to visit the Albanese business," Lugar said.

Although the Albanese Nut and Candy Co. employs more than 200 people, many candy-making businesses around the U.S. haven't been as lucky with many closing and moving to other countries.

There were 112,000 U.S. jobs lost from 1997 to 2009 in industries relying on sugar, Lugar said.

Albanese said his plans are to employ 480 within the next three years. His business is expanding its manufacturing plant by 25,000 square feet.

Albanese said his business could be expanding by four times that much if the present sugar program, which offers price supports in the U.S. domestic market, were eliminated.

"It's a dumb law," he said. "It's slowing us down, but not stopping us."

His company, which purchases more than four truckloads of sugar per week, pays around 60 cents per pound while Mexican and Canadian manufacturers can buy it for around 35 cents per pound.