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Raising sugarcane is south Louisiana way of life, positioned for growth

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Louisiana sugarcane

As America's love affair with sugar continues, Louisiana sugarcane production is expected tofeed its voracious appetite, closingin on 500,000 acres, experts say.

But it's harder to say what this year's harvest will yield.

"A lot of things go into a good crop," said Kenneth Gravois, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist. "Weather from here on out is the first thing."

Last year's weather is another important part, as cane farmers get multiple harvests from a single planting, Gravois explained. So harvesting in the rain and mud last year could hurt Louisiana growers.

"The rough harvest last fall … could have a negative impact on this year's yield," Gravois said.

Chad HanksFarmer Chad Hanks, of Lafayette, has 4,000 acres spread across Acadiana. He said sugarcane is dependable, but the market will likely top out soon because of government regulation.

During his 29 years of farming, he's seen the highs and lows. His first year, he received 24.5 cents per pound. This year, he is getting 26 cents per pound.

"I'm selling my sugar for the same price I did 30 years ago," he said. "The American consumer is getting a deal."

Photo, above: Louisiana sugarcane harvest, (photo by Sam Irwin); right, Chad Hanks, (photo provided by Chad Hanks).

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