Industry influencers at the International Sugar Beet Institute talk about the successes and challenges facing farmers – Agweek

GRAND FORKS, ND – The sugar beet industry, like all sectors of production agriculture, faces a myriad of challenges, from supply chain disruptions to high input costs to by policymakers who are increasingly disconnected from agriculture, two sugar beet industry spokespersons told farmers at the 60th annual International Sugar Beet Institute held in Grand Forks

However, there are also positives such as sharing industry successes with policy makers, high sugar prices and record national sugar production in 2021 that Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association and Rob Johannson, director of economics and policy for the American Sugar Alliance analysis, highlighted during their presentations

Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, right, speaks with attendees at the International Sugar Beet Institute event at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on March 16, 2022.

Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

Markwart and Johannson gave keynote speeches on Wednesday, March 16, the first day of ISBI, and will speak again on March 17. The event, which rotates between Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota, also includes a trade show. with beet equipment and inputs used in crop production.

One of the U.S. sugar industry’s successes in 2021 has been record production, despite growing challenges in the season, Johannson said. Late rains in the otherwise dry growing season boosted yields in the northern plains, which previously appeared to be reduced by drought.

Whether this spring’s moisture will be adequate is a concern for some growers, and the majority will spend more money growing and harvesting their crops. Rising production costs mean farm income is likely to be lower in 2022 than it was in 2021, when input costs were lower, Johannson said.

“We’re arguing in Washington, DC, that you can’t just look at prices and say agriculture is in good shape,” Johannson said. “Last year was a high point.”

In addition to higher production costs, federal assistance programs such as the Market Facilitator Program, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which added to farm income, will no longer be in place, Johannson noted.

“Those programs were over,” he said.

Education of members of the Congressional Ag Committee, including some who were not in office when the last Farm Bill was written, is important because there will likely be an effort to change policies, reduce loan rates and eliminate availability of raw materials and contract awards.

Markwart pointed out to members of Congress that because the sugar industry is so efficient, there was no shortage of sugar, like there were many other items on grocery store shelves, during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our big story was, ‘Congressmen, you’ve had a lot of worries for the past two years, and sugar wasn’t one of them,'” Markwart said.

Another way the sugar beet industry has sought to tell its story is to have sugar beets in the garden of the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., so that policy makers can see the harvest. .

Over the next few months, sugar beet industry advocates will work to craft the best Farm Bill possible, which will include maintaining existing policies and protecting crop insurance.

“I’m optimistic about the future, but we have a lot of work to do,” Markwart said.

Rachel J. Bradford