Sugarbeet growers endure sugar price drop

Published online: Nov 11, 2013
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Moorhead, Minn., resident Trent Eidem is the third generation in the family business.
"I'm a farmer and I grow sugarbeets, wheat, soy beans and corn," he says.
He grows all of this on 2,000 acres in Felton, Minn. Eidem's sugarbeets won't be as profitable as years past. 
"Most of the sugar sold on last years crop was pre sold at a better price. Now this year it was pre-sold at a lower price," he says.
While American Crystal Sugar was not able to comment, company CEO Dave Berg said in a statement that he is predicting a payment of $38 per ton of beets for the 2013 crop from $68 per ton for the 2012 crop for a few reasons.
First, Mexico has free access to the United States sugar market through the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"We had a big year of sugar production in the United States in 2012, plus there was a big Mexican crop and so we had more sugar from Mexico coming up. It just put too much supply relative to demand," says NDSU Farm Management Specialist Andrew Swenson.
Sugarbeet producers are paid per ton of beets delivered and ultimately the amount of sugar extracted from those tons. This means that a second reason why the price of sugar can drop is weather during the growing season that affects the prosperity of each beet.
"The sugar content, which is another key component will be a little below average. They're looking at, last time I heard, maybe 17-17.5 percent sugar versus a more typical like 18 percent sugar. That will affect payment producers will get on a per-ton-of-beets-they-deliver basis" says Swenson.
Both of these translate to less money in a farmer's pocket.
"It's disappointing when you find out that you're not going to make as much money or even any money at all depending on the year and the farm and different acreages for the work you put in all year," says Eidem.
Which is a large contributor to the local economy.
"Agriculture drives this area, the Fargo-Moorhead area," he says.