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Sugarcane Outlook ‘Sweet’ for Louisiana Farmers

Louisiana’s sugarcane producers were encouraged following the Louisiana Farm Bureau Sugar Conference at the 2023 Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation Convention at the New Orleans Marriott.

“Sugar is the top commodity of the year,” said Jeff Dobrydney to the farmers, mill operators and ag lenders who gathered in the Marriott’s Preservation Hall. “Prices are up 30% worldwide and look to stay strong.”

By Chuck Cannon
Special to Louisiana Farm Bureau Media

Dobrydney said weather concerns in India, Thailand and Brazil, along with an expected El Nino pattern in the Pacific Ocean, could be a major factor in worldwide sugar production.

“Add to that the fact that China has begun buying ore sugar, and the market looks strong for U.S. producers,” he said. “Producers could see new price highs this year.”

Following Dobrydney was Dr. Al Orgeron, associate professor and resident coordinator of the LSU Ag Center Sugar Research and Iberia Research Station. Orgeron gave a report on the use of sprayer drones.

“This is a relatively new area for us, but it’s a good way to get us into fields with our spraying,” said Orgeron. “However, it’s important to understand there are rules that must be followed when using drones.”

Orgeron said operators who use drones that weigh more than 55 pounds must be licensed to operate them. He also pointed out concerns with spray drifting onto another producer’s crops, or a drone that crashes causing personal or property damage.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed before adding a drone as part of your spraying efforts,” he said. “But if you take care of them, they can be a big benefit.”

During the meeting, producers approved a list of resolutions to present to voting delegates at the convention June 25. Bryan Simon, Louisiana Farm Bureau sugar advisory committee commodity chair, said the biggest issues facing the group are labor related.

“We oppose the March 30, 2023, H2-A Wage Rule,” Simon said. “We’re opposed to harvest drivers being classified as heavy and tractor-trailer drivers.”

Jim Simon, head of the American Sugar Cane League, gave an update on a lawsuit Louisiana producers have entered in with other states and ag producers against the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We’re hoping for an injunction in July that would revert to the Dec. 22 wage rate of $13.67 an hour instead of the recent wage increase to more than $23 an hour.,” Jim Simon said. “We believe the rule is not legal, and it has the potential to nearly double the wage rate and cost more than $200 million to Louisiana farmers.”

Rodney Simoneaux, and his son, Stephen, farm more than 1,500 acres in Assumption Parish, and attended the conference.

“A lot of time when we come to convention the news is not good,” Rodney said. “This time it was all good.”

Stephen agreed.

“The outlook for the foreseeable future for sugarcane farmers is bright,” he said.

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