Sugaronline Editorial - Off to the races By Meghan Sapp

Published: 10/13/2017, 1:33:00 PM

The bumper US sugar harvest is looking to break some records but there are those who want to see cheap imports instead.

The bumper US sugar harvest is looking to break some records but there are those who want to see cheap imports instead.


The sugar harvest, be it beet or cane, is getting off to a great start in the US with near record yields in many parts of the country with many more looking forward to a good season. After Florida's sugarcane was hit so hard by Hurricane Irma the industry is in dire need of some good news.

Last year saw a record at Amalgamated Sugar in Idaho with yields above 40 tons per acre and nearly 20% sugar content. Though that's tough to beat, the company is optimistic as the results from early tests confirm it can come close again this year, perhaps between 38 and 39 tons an acre. Early on, returns to farmers are looking to be around US$37 to US$40 per ton.

Heading east to Montana, the crop is expected to come in at about 32 tons per acre, just below its record of 33 tons, so despite a few thousand acres that weren't planted this year, production should still be round about 1.3 million tons. With regular harvest set to begin next week for Western Sugar's Wyoming, Montana and Colorado plants, they're looking to keep up the high sugar levels they've seen so far, with an average of 16.1%.

North Dakota and Michigan beet is looking to come in at more than 31 tons per acre, with Red River Valley farmers in Michigan potentially seeing a record year. With more than 12.6 million tons of beets expected to come out of Michigan this season, as long as the weather behaves and doesn't stay too warm too long, then the crop will come in well above average.

In Louisiana, though it's still too early to tell, the cane crop looks to come in well above average as well. The state's cane-growing regions got very lucky this year, lying just outside of the tracks of several major hurricanes and tropical storms.

But where there's good news, there's often bad. Ahead of next year's Farm Bill, which is in the drafting stage by several key legislators, candymakers and bakers are already banging the drum looking for the end of the national sugar program. They want cheap sugar imports so they can compete with foreign producers, something they say they can't do now due to the costs of sugar in the US' managed market. And it's a demand they make every time the Farm Bill comes around.

Calling the sugar program everything from a "Soviet style command and control scheme" to "government price fixing", the American Sugar Alliance is fighting tooth and nail to make sure that sugar is still produced in the country instead of becoming a price taker to Brazil. The ASA believes that if the sugar program were eliminated, US industries would be outsourcing their sugar demand to Brazil in order to save a few manufacturing jobs while destroying the thousands of farming jobs related to domestic sugar production.

It's a sticky time, as Farm Bill time always is, but Sugaronline is happy to welcome back veteran sugar journalist Cindy Snyder who will be reporting from the sugar “front lines” twice a month beginning mid-October.

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