Ag Policy Blog

Disaster Aid Announced for Sugar Co-ops

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Sugarbeet farmers in the Red River Valley saw their beet crops rot away in the fields last fall because of wet conditions. (Courtesy photo by Curt Knutson, sugar beet grower and American Crystal Sugar Company board member)

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced Friday that sugar cooperatives will receive $285 million in disaster assistance to help growers impacted by disasters.

Sugar growing areas in the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota were severely impacted by excess moisture and drought in 2018 and 2019

In December, Congress passed $1.5 billion in disaster assistance for agriculture as part of a larger disaster bill. The legislation required the Agriculture Department to make disaster payments to eligible sugar cooperatives, as well as expand Wildfire Hurricane Indemnity Plus (WHIP+) to cover quality losses and clarified eligible disaster events by including losses related to excess moisture and drought.

Producers in counties that experienced D3-level drought or higher will be eligible for disaster assistance under WHIP+ program. Producers impacted by excessive moisture will be eligible for WHIP+ in counties with a secretarial or presidential disaster declaration. The application period will open on March 23.

“The adverse weather conditions that farmers had to contend with, in addition to the current trade situation, have made the last several growing, harvesting, and marketing years among the most challenging most have faced in their lifetime of farming,” Peterson said.

“I’m glad we were able to address the specific needs of sugar beet cooperatives and their growers,” he said. “I also appreciate the work that Chairman Hoeven and Chairman [Sanford] Bishop [D-Ga.] of the [House] Ag Appropriations Committee have done to ensure the availability of this much needed assistance.”

“We’ve been working with USDA to provide this assistance in the most effective way possible for both our sugar growers and other producers who were impacted by disasters,” said Hoeven.

“This $285 million for our sugar producers is very important and we’ve worked hard to get it. USDA also agreed to move forward with assistance as a result of both drought and excess moisture, which is important as well because we’ve had both in our state over the last two years. Getting this assistance to producers in a timely manner is critical — as many are struggling with cash flow issues as they head into spring 2020 planting.”

Toomey, Shaheen, Others Want More Sugar Access

Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and six of their colleagues wrote Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week urging him to increase access for sugar from Mexico and other sugar-supplying countries in light of the reduced domestic sugar crop caused by weather problems.

The Alliance for Fair Sugar Policy, a group that includes sweetener users, thanked the senators for their letter and said the Fair Sugar Policy Act (S.2568, H.R.4521) “is the ultimate fix.”

The American Sugar Alliance, which represents the cane and beet growers, has said, however, that if similar legislation had passed it in previous years it would have resulted in sugar growers going out of business and created an even greater shortage this year.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport



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