BILLINGS — Farmers across our region and America have successfully harvested another sugar beet crop. The American Sugarbeet Growers Association’s Luther Markwart says despite some challenges from Mother Nature, this year’s crop is pretty good.
“Absolutely, we had a great crop across the country,” said Markwart. “It was a little bit off up in Idaho and in the mountain states because of how dry it was. Through that drought, it was difficult to keep water on the crop. And then the smoke kind of knocked some of the light out, and our leaves act like solar panels to make the sugar. In the east, it was very dry. Then we got some late rains and what we thought initially was going to be a disaster turned out we had one of the biggest crops on record. So, the bottom line is we've had a pretty good crop throughout the country.”
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about supply chain issues and their impact on consumers and producers. Luther says whether it was last year or now, there’s an ample supply of sugar available compliments of the U.S. sugar industry.
“We continue to remind Congress that when COVID broke in 2020 and people ran to the store and started hoarding things, sugar wasn’t a problem,” said Markwart. “We actually pivoted from industrial users to the customer, and we put about 53 million four-pound bags on the shelf. So, we took care of customers then and we're going to take care of customers now.”
He says this is some really good news especially with the holiday season upon us.
“We're making lots of sugar,” said Markwart. “Consumers don't have to worry about Thanksgiving or Christmas as there’s going to be plenty of sugar. And frankly, the prices are very stable and affordable.”
He says with inflation driving up food prices this is why it’s so important to keep America’s sugar growers in business which by the way doesn’t cost the U.S. taxpayer a dime.
“As we've harvested the crop, we're making all the sugar and we're making it faster than what the market can absorb it,” said Markwart. “So, we take out loans of about a billion dollars a year to store over two million tons of sugar, waiting for the customer to say they need sugar to sell to retailers. We sell it to them; they pay us and we pay the loans back to the to the government with interest.”
The sugar industry and its growers continue to contribute and support economies in all 11 producing states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming).