No Farm Bill, No Sugarbeets Up North

Inside Dakota Ag

North Dakota farms may look more like Manitoba farms if there's no farm bill this year

Published on: August 5, 2013

I didn’t see a lot of difference in the farms when I crossed the border into Manitoba last week to attend a Wolf Trax field day. Wolf Trax makes micronutrients that fertilizer dealers market across the U.S.

On the North Dakota side of the border, there were a lot of corn, soybean, wheat, canola and sugarbeet fields.

On the Manitoba side, it was nearly the same, but the sugarbeet fields were missing.

Manitoba’s sugarbeet industry dried up in the late 1990s. According to Stats Canada, it was partly due to:

  • Increased competition from corn fructose and from cane sugar, which Canada imports raw in bulk and refines in plants in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
  • U.S. sugar policy, which restricts sugar imports from foreign countries. As a result of the program , Manitoba’s sugar industry lost access to the markets in Chicago and other parts of the U.S.

Will the same thing happen to the North Dakota-Minnesota sugarbeet industry if U.S. Congress doesn’t pass a farm bill that continues import restrictions?

I hope not. But, as was evident on Manitoba farms, life goes on -- mainly in the form of a lot more corn and soybeans.

As for the current state of Canada’s sugar industry, they do grow sugarbeets in Quebec and truck them to Michigan for processing. They also grow them in Alberta where they have high yields, high sugar contents and access to a landlocked market. Learn more about what Canada’s sugar industry looks like now. Click here.