"The U.S. sugar industry is in nothing less than a full out crisis," said Robert Green, chairman of the American Crystal Sugar Company's board of directors and a St. Thomas, N.D., farmer, at the co-op's recent annual meeting in Fargo.
American Crystal is projecting that will be able to pay growers $38 per ton this year, down from $60 per ton last year. Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, Wahpeton, N.D, is also projecting a similar price.
"Nobody is going to make money this year," Green said.
Prices are lower, said David Berg, American Crystal president and CEO, mostly because Mexico dumped its excess sugar on the U.S. market, something that federal officials allowed it to do under the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. sugar policy has limited imports from most countries in the past.
Sen. John Hoeven (R) and Heidi Heitkamp (D), who addressed the co-op's convention and meeting of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, said a sugar program will be included in the Farm Bill. Both lawmakers said they were optimistic that a Farm Bill would be passed.
The new Farm Bill will also include a livestock indemnity program and crop insurance, Sen. Hoeven said.
It may link conservation compliance to crop insurance eligibility, but with some farmer-friendly amendments, such as requiring the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to accept acre-for-acre wetland mitigation.
The wide gap between House and Senate proposed cuts in food stamps program has held up the Farm Bill. The Republican controlled House has proposed cuts that would save $40 billion over five years. The Democratic controlled Senate has offered $4 billion in cuts. Sen. Hoeven said the difference could be resolved by "forgetting about the dollars" and adding incentive to work requirements. They might include requiring able-bodied adults to be working, in training programs, going to school or doing community service to be eligible.
"All the elements are there for an agreement on the Farm Bill," he concluded, but added, "it's not done until it's done."