It’s late February and sugarcane grower Joe Beaud III, of New Roads is standing under his farm shed looking out at his cane field south of LaBarre Service Road. The shed is immaculately clean and his tractors and equipment boast a spit-polish shine — his pickup truck not so much.
Mud, possibly from the Paleolithic era, is caked underneath the fender. JB3, better known as Joby, laughed at the incongruity of immaculate tractors versus a dirty truck.”My employees do a great job of keeping everything clean,” Joby said. “I’m glad my guys do as I say, not as I do.”
After an unseasonably cold Louisiana winter which has seen cane fields covered in snow, sleet and ice, Joby’s fields are starting to dry up. A few sprouts of green cane are emerging from the sandy loam soil his farm is blessed with. “We could get in the field today but we’re supposed to get some rain tonight.”
And rain it did…almost an inch and a quarter.
Joby is not that concerned — yet. He knows that the Bayou State winter is a peculiar animal. Two years ago cane planters essentially had a frost-free winter and the 2012 crop turned into the best one ever…1.7 million tons of raw sugar. When a late March freeze hit the Sugar Belt in 2013, most everyone thought the ensuing crop would be average, but wait a minute, hold the phone and stop right there…the Louisiana cane crop defied all expectations and another stellar crop, at least from a production standpoint, was turned in by Joby and his 482 farming brethren.
The 2013 total was 1.59 million tons of raw sugar…good enough for an all-time top five finish in the state’s 219-year cane-producing history.
Joby knows he’s fortunate. At 39 years old, he’s got some of the best sandy loam soil along Pointe Coupee’s section of the Mississippi River. Some folks describe the Mississippi’s sandy loam as “ice cream” land, mainly because of its quick-drying properties. It can rain one day and be pretty dry the next.
A fifth-generation farmer, Joby also comes from a family whose name is synonymous with farming in the river parish.
The Family Beaud has been farming along La. Highway 1 for many years. His grandfather grew Irish potatoes once upon a time and everyone from New Roads to Morganza knows the old potato shed landmark in the Beaud community. Everyone also knows where Joe Beaud Road is. It’s half a click from the potato shed. You know you’re a part of the parish fabric when roads are named after your family.
Joby is now in his 14th year of sugarcane farming. His 2,300 acres is mostly in sugarcane but he also puts in a crop of soybean. He farms land that was part of the old Brunswick and the LaBarre plantations. His land is contiguous, which is a bit unusual in today’s farming world. Even more unusual, perhaps, is that his brother Charles’s farm is next door to his. And his father’s land is also adjacent to Joby’s land….that’s what five generations of farming in Pointe Coupee Parish can do for you.
Like a lot of Louisiana cane operations, Joby’s farm is a family operation.
“My wife Heather does the books,” he said. “My kids, Alexis and Seth, come out with me all the time on the farm. They get on the tractors with me and they like to ride the four-wheelers. A lot of the farming decisions I make, I have them in mind.”
He mentions that he just bought some land. “I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to pass it down,” he said.
And he wants to leave his land in better shape than when he bought it.
“I’m continually working to improve it,” he said. I’ve been grading my land for the last ten years. I’ve always wanted to farm. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I love it. It’s like the old saying, ‘If you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I love it.”
But he doesn’t love the feral hogs. He pointed to a hog trap on his land. “We got 97 hogs last year. It’s open season on hogs around here. I think it made a difference. I’m not seeing nearly the damage.”
Joby does his part to advance sugarcane farming in Louisiana. He cooperates with researchers by planting outfield variety tests on his farm and he is a secondary station grower for the American Sugar Cane League. A secondary station is a farm that participates in releasing new cane varieties in a region. When a new variety is up for release, the secondary station farm receives a small amount of cane from a primary station to plant and increase the new variety of cane for an additional year.” This helps to secure adequate seedcane of new varieties for the region.
“The new varieties that are available to us are one of the major factors keeping us in business,” he said. “So I do what I can to help with the research trials.”
He admitted he had a few tense moments during Thanksgiving freeze.
“Everyone was concerned, but I was optimistic because I had confidence in our varieties,” Joby said. “We managed it. We were given advice by the mill on how to manage the freeze. We harvested the least cold tolerant and got them out. We had minimal loss. Everyone understood the situation. No one panicked — there was some loss but we still turned out a great crop.”
Still a young farmer, Joby chalks up the 2013 crop to his comprehensive experience.
“We’ve been through things like that before,” he said. “There’s all kind of adversity that we have to overcome.”
It wouldn’t be farming without adversity.
by Sam Irwin, March 2014
By now you’ve heard that another Farm Bill was passed by Congress. What did sugar policy cost the taxpayer? Well, there are no direct payments to sugarcane or sugar beet farmers. In fact, the managed supply policy the USDA employs to keep prices fair has been working just fine. It worked just fine until NAFTA allowed Mexican sugar to flood the market. So how much does sugar policy cost the taxpayer? Would you believe eight cents a year?
Read the story.