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Processors encouraged to participate in Sugar PIK Program

DENVER>>Sugar processors throughout the Rocky Mountain region are being encouraged to participate in the new program that would allow growers to divert current acres from production.

Dave Carter, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union this week urged full participation in the newly-announced program in order “to bring a little relief to producers throughout the region.”

In a move intended to head off a financial catastrophe among American sugar producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week announced a program that will allow growers to exchange a portion of their crop for sugar held by the federal government. Farmers will be allowed to bid for the sugar by offering to divert acres from production. Individual producers are limited to $20,000 in Payment In Kind (PIK) funds.

Participation by the sugar processing companies is necessary for implementation of the program.
Sugar beets have long provided a staple crop rotation component for farmers in the Rocky Mountain region, including growers along the rapidly urbanizing Front Range corridor. This year, sugar beet producers in the region are staggering under a market collapse created in large part by cheap imported product.

Jerry Hergenreder, who farms with his wife, Trisha, east of Longmont, Colo., said the program may provide a “little bit of help, but a little bit late.” Hergenreder estimated that the crop in his fields now have a gross value of $650 per acre. He estimates that he has already spent nearly $550 per acre in seed, fuel, labor and water. “That doesn’t even count the additional water and labor I’m having to purchase, nor does it count the harvest costs I’ll have to bear this fall,” he noted.

The program announced by USDA last week is intended to alleviate sugar overproduction, reduce probable crop loan forfeitures, and dispose of government inventory. The program is authorized under the Food Security Act of 1985.

Hergenreder blamed the nation’s trade policies for creating the glut of sugar. He said American growers today compete with nations that produce ‘cheap’ sugar by exploiting farmers, workers, and by abusing the environment.

“It doesn’t make any sense to tear up sugar beets in our backyard simply so we can keep importing cheap product. If this is the type of trade-off we are going to continue to make, more and more farmers will turn their fields into housing developments,” he said.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is dedicated to the mission that “A safe, healthy food system begins with secure, profitable farm and ranch families.”