American Sugar Cane League director Jim Simon reported that the Louisiana sugarcane industry produced more than two million tons of raw sugar in 2022 for the first time ever and is now the number one cane sugar-producing state in the United States.
Simon made his remarks at the 100th meeting of the American Sugar Cane League February 7 at L’Auberge Casino and Hotel in Baton Rouge. The League’s annual meeting coincided with the semi-annual meeting of the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists.
“It’s true that the Christmas freeze soured the end of our harvest season and instead of a bumper crop we had a good crop,” Simon said. “Sugarcane has been attracting new farmers because it is a reliable crop and well-suited for Louisiana’s climate.”
The 2022 crop wrapped up on January 21, 2023 after grinding more than 17.1 million tons of cane to produce 2.05 million tons of raw sugar. Of the state’s 11 mills, three ground more than two million cane tons each, a first. Sugarcane acreage has been steadily increasing for the last ten years, especially in Vermilion Parish and the northern cane belt parishes of Pointe Coupee, Avoyelles and Rapides. State acreage is now 480,000 for milling purposes, a 102,000 acre increase since 2015.
Simon said the reason the Louisiana sugarcane industry is strong is because of its success in procuring research funding and establishing good national sugar policy because it works easily with other sugar producing states.
“As strong as the League is, when we collaborate with the sugar beet and cane states when we go to Washington, we’re even stronger,” he said.
Simon said Louisiana and Florida recently worked with Mississippi’s Delta Council to procure $2 million in recurring funding to develop a sugarcane genomics program at the United States Department of Agriculture research center in Stoneville, Mississippi.
“Right now, it takes us 12 years to develop a new variety,” Simon said. “Developing a genomics program will allow us to speed up the process.”
The League also installed a new set of officers and board of directors at the meeting. Bryan Simon of Abbeville was elected president and David Thibodeaux of Jeanerette was chosen as vice president. Gary Gravois of Napoleonville will serve as secretary and Ben LeBlanc of Thibodaux will be treasurer. Also, newly elected board members are cane producer Ted Broussard of Jeanerette and Drew Maciasz of Port Allen.
Outgoing president Randy Romero of Jeanerette honored Wallace “Dickie” Ellender of Bourg with the President’s Award, the League’s highest honorific for his 20-plus years of service to the League and a lifetime of service to the sugarcane industry.
Departing board members Clint Freyou of Jeanerette and Jessie Breaux of Franklin were also honored for their service to the League.
National agriculture journalist Jim Wiesemeyer was the keynote speaker and told the gathering that a new agricultural industrial revolution was well underway in the country and predicted that electric vehicles will “fundamentally change the country and agriculture.”
“The push is on for EVs and that will affect the renewable fuel program,” Wiesemeyer said. “It took about 20 years for the Model T car to push the horse to the side of the road. We’re about ten years in on electric vehicles so within the next ten years you’re going to see substantial change.”
Wiesemeyer said agriculture has always been innovative and will embrace the coming use of driverless vehicles to reduce the cost of agricultural transportation. Agriculture is also responsible for 90 percent of the commercial drone use in the country, he said.
The confab also heard several scientific research presentations on how the crop weathered the Christmas freeze event, milling studies, technology advancements and regulations in the spray drone industry and new equipment technology.