Sugarbeet farmers in Montana ended January on a high note with the publication of three op-eds from key leaders in the Sidney Herald this week.
Democratic Governor Steve Bullock and U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R) and Jon Tester (D), the state’s top elected officials, thanked Montana’s beet farmers for being a backbone of the state’s economy.
Governor Bullock and Senator Daines touched on similar themes, including the importance of sugarbeets to the state. Meanwhile, Senator Tester focused on the Farm Bill and the importance of maintaining a strong sugar policy for the state’s growers.
“Montana continues to produce high-grade sugarbeets, and we can all be proud of a harvest that again contributed nearly $100 million to the state’s economy,” the Governor wrote.
Senator Daines agreed, noting, “You certainly cannot miss the importance of sugarbeets to our economy. Sugarbeets support over 4,000 Montana jobs and contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to our state’s economy.”
Both officials applauded farmers for their dedication despite the economic squeeze created by continued low commodity prices. This perseverance, they explained, helped sustain the ag industry’s place as the state’s primary economic driver.
The articles were well received by Kjeld Jonsson, a farmer and president of the Sidney-based Montana-Dakota Beet Growers Association.
“Overall, 2017 was a good harvest,” he said. “It’s gratifying that sugarbeet farming can help bolster the state’s economy so much.”
Association Vice President Ryan Haidle, who also farms sugarbeets, was likewise proud of the state’s harvest and the unexpected recognition.
“Big sugarbeet harvests like this don’t come around very often. We frankly need more of them, especially since prices never recovered after Mexico illegally dumped its subsidized sugar into the U.S. market several years ago,” Haidle explained. “It’s good to know that in Montana, farmers have the political support we need from our elected leaders.”
That kind of support will be invaluable as Congress rewrites the Farm Bill. Senator Daines, who sits on the Agriculture Committee, explained what’s at stake during the upcoming debate.
“Montana sugar farmers can compete with anyone, but some foreign governments heavily subsidize sugar production,” he wrote. “This distorts world markets and puts Montana and U.S. producers at a disadvantage. I will continue fighting to protect the critical sugar program in the Farm Bill, ensure our trade agreements are enforced and ensure that Montana sugar farmers are able to compete on a level-playing field.”
He won’t be alone in fighting for America’s sugar producers on Capitol Hill.
“Congress needs to produce a Farm Bill that works for Montana’s number one industry: agriculture,” explained Senator Tester. “The sugar program works for Montana farmers, and we need to continue to improve it in order for our state to thrive.”
He continued, “Sugarbeet growers work hard. I will honor that hard work by continuing to bring my Montana farmer’s perspective to the U.S. Senate.”
Jonsson knows that having champions like this in his court will make a difference and will help support the next generation of farmers.
“So much is at stake,” he concluded. “We need stability in the sugar market to remain viable, now and in the future.”