Bright Forecast for America’s Sugar Industry

Recently the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri released their outlook for U.S. agriculture. They project that American sugar production remains strong and is expected to grow, despite challenges we have seen over the past couple years including factory closures in Sidney, MT, and Santa Rosa, TX.

“Despite new and existing challenges, the forecast is bright for American sugar production as long as the farmers’ safety net is strengthened,” said Dr. Rob Johansson, Director of Economics and Policy Analysis at the American Sugar Alliance.

Most of America’s sugarbeet growers are beginning to plant the upcoming crop, while sugarbeet growers in California have just started their harvest and sugarcane producers in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas are finishing the harvest and processing of the most recent sugarcane crop.

“The diversity of locations for sugar production is one of the underpinnings of our strong domestic supply chain for sugar — if one region is having weather challenges, another is likely enjoying good growing conditions,” added Johansson. “We have operations spread across more than two dozen states with distribution centers located across the country.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to update their forecasts for this year’s production. USDA currently forecasts a near-record 9.215 million tons of sugar will be produced in the U.S. this year, meeting about 74% of U.S. demand with made-in-America sugar supplies. That would keep America the fifth largest producer of sugar in the world, and the third largest sugar importer.

The first forecast from USDA for the upcoming year’s planting season will be in May, but based on FAPRI’s recent forecast, it is safe to assume that USDA will show an increase in sugar production from domestically grown sugarbeets and sugarcane.

Economists from Louisiana State University and the University of Tennessee also recently published an overview of the domestic sugar market in Southern Ag Today which debunks a misinformation campaign about any “sugar shortages.”

That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges.

In February of this year, the Texas sugarcane mill announced it will close due to Mexico’s non-compliance with a long-standing water treaty, dealing a serious blow to the industry and leaving workers out of jobs. Farmers around the country continue to deal with high input costs and low profit margins, with the cost of growing sugarcane and sugarbeets up by more than 30% since the last Farm Bill. This year’s challenges have highlighted the immense importance of the flexibility of U.S. sugar policy.

U.S. sugar policy not only keeps food manufacturing lines humming and consumers supplied, it’s also a great deal for taxpayers. New estimates from FAPRI show that the U.S. sugar program is projected to remain at zero cost for the next 10 years.

A five-year Farm Bill that reflects current economic realities and strengthens U.S. sugar policy will ensure America’s sugarbeet and sugarcane farmers and workers can continue supplying us with a critical component of our national food supply, no matter the challenges ahead. We can all be assured that we will always have adequate supplies of American-made sugar.

That’s good news for American taxpayers and consumers.