Production farmers, sugarcane producers included, generally do their work in the fields and don’t necessarily come into contact with a lot of folks outside their agricultural sphere.
By Jim Simon
American Sugar Cane League
They see their family, of course. They are on a speed-dial relationship with their banker, insurance agent, miller, crop consultant, and farm supply manager, but other than that, their work keeps them occupied. Farmers, however, always stay connected with the ongoing discussion about national farm policy. They’ve learned if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re usually on the menu, so, for the last several years, cane farmers and millers have organized semi-annual trips, dubbed “fly-ins,” to Washington D.C. to network with Congressional leaders and other ag policymakers.
It can be unsettling for a farmer more used to wearing work boots than dress shoes to meet high powered members of Congress for the first time, but when farmers relate their trials and tribulations to national leaders, often a personal connection is made. Two of our younger farmers, Patrick Frischhertz of St. Louis Planting in Iberville Parish and Reid Engemann of Engemann Farms in Pointe Coupee made such a connection with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. It started when they showed her a video of two tractors struggling to pull a combine harvester stuck six feet deep in mud during the 2018 harvest. There’s one more thing: the tractors were also hitched to a bulldozer; all three machines were trying to move the stuck combine.
Patrick recounted his meeting with Hartzler. “We met the Congresswoman at a meet and greet event,” he said. “The Members come around and do an introduction. She latched onto the Louisiana cane guys who also farm soybeans and lease crawfish land. What got her attention was a video of the stuck combine that illustrated the difficult time we can have in the fields.”
Hartzler and her husband own a Case tractor dealership in Missouri.
“Turn up the sound,” she said.
Knowing there may have been some indelicate language in the video, Reid and Patrick declined.
“But the video broke the ice and she got a good idea of what sugarcane farmers go through during a harvest,” Patrick said.
Because of the personal connection Reid and Patrick made, Hartzler came down to Louisiana October 8 to visit a sugarcane farm in Batchelor.
“If you don’t tell your story and relate the positives about your industry, no one will,” said Patrick. “The fly-ins have also given me a new appreciation for farmers and how hard we work.”
“A lot of the people you talk to about sugarcane don’t have the slightest ideas of what sugarcane farming is like,” Reid said. “You give them your voice and we put our skin in the game. Some find interest in farming because they have a rural background while some from the city want to know more. And some have no interest but you thank everyone for their time and you always leave on good terms.”
Reid and Patrick renewed their friendship with the Congresswoman when they hosted her on a tour at George and Gert LaCour’s farm, followed by a tour of the raw sugar mill at Alma Plantation.
Governor Murphy “Mike” Foster
The Louisiana sugarcane industry was saddened to hear of former governor Mike Foster’s passing. A retired sugarcane farmer and businessman, Mike was a true friend of the sugar industry. If you were in the sugarcane world, you felt a certain degree of personal connection to him. Condolences to his family. Godspeed to you, sir.