By John O’Connell
Intermountain Farm and Ranch
TWIN FALLS — Magic Valley farmers had to replant 53,000 acres of sugar beets this spring due to cold and wind damage, but their fields have made up ground since then and are back on track for a good harvest, said Brad Griff, executive director of the Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association.
Throughout the Amalgamated Sugar Co. growing area, which is predominantly in Southern Idaho and also includes parts of Oregon and Washington, Griff said the crop is encouraging.
"It looks like a very similar crop to 2019, which was a very strong crop," Griff said.
Griff said sugar has provided a source of stability for Idaho farmers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service reported on June 30 that Idaho sugar beet farmers reduced their crops by 3,000 acres this year, planting 171,000 acres.
Griff disagrees with the NASS numbers. He said Amalgamated, which buys all of the state's sugar beet production from growers who hold shares in the company, actually reported acreage remained flat.
Company-wide, Amalgamated growers planted 177,297 acres in 2020, compared with 177,429 acres during the prior year, Griff said.
Thus far, Griff said, the COVID-19 crisis hasn't affected demand for U.S. sugar and prices remain fairly strong. He explained the stability is a result of U.S. sugar policy passed in the 2018 farm bill, which gives USDA the flexibility to increase or decrease foreign imports based on supply and demand.
"It ensures our growers will be able to sell their sugar in this country without a whole lot of foreign interference," Griff said.
Griff said stable sugar prices are projected heading forward. The crop has helped his growers offset losses due to potato and barley contracted acreage cuts.
"They always say the sugar beets pay the mortgage and I think that will be true again this year," Griff said.