— Tucson, Arizona—
The hearts and minds of our nation and the world have been focused on Tucson since that fateful and tragic morning of January 8. As grower-leaders from our beet growing regions arrive in Tucson for our annual meeting (February 6-8), our thoughts and prayers continue for the fallen victims of this senseless tragedy.
Our board of directors was looking forward to a breakfast meeting with Congresswoman Giffords to express our thanks for her support of a strong domestic sugar industry in the last farm bill, and to give her the opportunity to meet those growers who help supply the sugar needs of her constituents and our nation. We salute her service to our country and the burdens of sacrifice that she and her family must now endure.
— Roundup Ready Beets --
We hope that USDA will have announced by the end of January what action they will take regarding the planting of Roundup Ready® sugarbeets for 2011. Since the public commenting period ended on December 6, 2010, APHIS staff at USDA has worked very hard and thoughtfully to address issues that have been raised and to finalize the draft Environmental Assessment for planting Roundup Ready beets this spring.
On December 21, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended its stay (pending appeal) of Judge Jeffrey White’s November 30 injunction requiring destruction of sugarbeet stecklings (seedlings) currently being grown under permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The stecklings are intended for research and breeding purposes, as well as for basic seed and hybrid seed production for 2012 and future years.
The Appeals Court consolidated the permit litigation with the appeal of Judge White’s August 13, 2010, decision vacating the deregulation of biotech sugarbeets, and expedited the briefing and hearing schedule so that the appeals can be heard on February 15, 2011. To allow for consideration of the appeals, the stay of Judge White’s injunction has been extended to February 28 or such other time as the Ninth Circuit orders.
The beet sugar industry’s growers, processors, technology providers and seed producers are pleased that the Court of Appeals will now have sufficient opportunity to consider relevant legal precedents and unrebutted evidence that the planting of these permitted steckling fields is authorized by law and would cause no harm. We are hopeful that this expedited appellate process will bring more certainty to our industry early in 2011.
— Crop Insurance --
On January 11, a team of sugarbeet grower representatives met with Risk Management Administration (RMA) officials to discuss the following four key issues.
1) The initial price election for the 2011 crop was established in late November at $41.50 per ton ($43 in California). We clearly believe that this price is too low and asked that the estimate be revised significantly upward (upper $40s range). A final decision by RMA will be made by mid-February.
2) The replant coverage will be 1.5 times the price election for 2011. While this is an improvement of a half ton over the 2010 crop, it remains inadequate to cover growers’ actual replant costs. The ASGA, in conjunction with your state or local association, will be working to get much better third-party cost numbers to clearly justify higher replant compensation.
3) RMA also needs to work on the quality adjustment factor in the insurance policy. The quality deductions in the FCIC insurance policy are often much smaller than those in grower-cooperative contracts, resulting in under-coverage.
4) Finally, field piles, or “clamps,” have been used to increase harvest efficiencies and reduce costs — and could ultimately be very helpful in reducing losses for the grower, the cooperative, insurance agents and the government. Statistical information is being compiled on existing clamps for RMA to digest in the months ahead. Under current provision of the policy, sugarbeets are considered “harvested” once they are topped and lifted.
— Damaged Cane Crop --
The sub-freezing temperatures in Florida in mid-December damaged sugarcane that was being harvested. Damage assessment usually takes some time to evaluate, and it will likely be late January before accurate assessments can be made.
In the January WASDE report, USDA estimated and made an initial reduction of 100,000 tons of raw sugar for the 2010/11 crop. With production and inventories of raw sugar cane stockpiled early in the year, there is time to determine whether more sugar is needed once all the factors are adequately assessed.
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Luther Markwart, author of Dateline Washington, is executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.