The American Sugar Cane League, founded in 1922 by a group of Louisiana cane producers and millers, celebrated the beginning of its 100th year of service to the cane industry on February 8 at its annual meeting at L’Auberge Hotel and Casino in Baton Rouge.
Robert Johansson and Allison Crittenden, two nationally recognized experts on American sugar policy and farm bill issues, spoke on issues that will affect the cane industry in the upcoming year.
Johansson, director of economics and policy analysis at the American Sugar Alliance, said the nation’s gross domestic product is rebounding from the 2020 year but inflation will put pressure on input costs and be the chief risk to continued growth.
“Farm sector profits grew in 2021 because demand and weather pushed prices up,” Johansson said. “But despite the record domestic sugar production, when inflationary pressures are taken into account, prices have fallen for sugar.”
Allison Crittenden, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the biggest challenge for the farm economy will be labor.
“The Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal agencies are proposing new rule changes,” Crittenden said. “As sugarcane production is highly reliant on labor, potential changes to the wage-setting methodology and potential new heat illness standards could change how Louisiana sugarcane farms operate.”
She said political dynamics make it challenging to pass substantive ag labor reform legislation.
Jim Simon, manager of the American Sugar Cane League, said the League had already submitted its public comment to the DOL proposed rule change and will wait for their response.
The League elected Randy Romero of Jeanerette as its president, Bryan Simon of Abbeville as vice president; David Thibodeaux, Jeanerette, secretary; and Gary Gravois, Napoleonville, treasurer.
Romero honored LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois with the president’s award.
“A career in ag research has been nothing less than fun,” Gravois said. “I have always had the utmost respect for the American Sugar Cane League and its role and mission. I think the founders of the League would be proud, shocked and surprised at where this industry is.”
Romero also noted the service of outgoing directors Wallace Ellender III of Bourg and Mark Engemann of Maringouin and thanked them for their service. Lance Gaudet of Paincourtville and Patrick Engemann of Baton Rouge were elected to fill the board vacancies.
Alma Plantation also wrested the Buckhorn trophy from Enterprise Mill for the most cane tonnage processed.
The Louisiana sugarcane industry ground 15.1 million tons of sugarcane for the 2021-22 year which produce 1.8 million tons of raw sugar. The sugar recovery rate was 242 pounds of sugar per ton of sugarcane, which is the second-best sugar recovery rate ever for the Louisiana sugarcane industry.