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Beet Growers Review A Challenging Year

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The 2010 growing season was one that most southern Alberta sugar beet growers want to forget, but record world sugar prices are soothing some of the pain.

Speaking to delegates at the 86th annual meeting of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Marketing Board, president Rob Boras said 2010 not only saw growers battle problems with wind, rain, insects or weeds, but also wet, adverse weather conditions in the spring and fall.

“Having achieved that, you should be able to reap some of the benefits of the high world sugar prices being experienced, translating into a level of return that hasn’t been seen in nearly 30 years,” he said.

Boras said there were also some trying policy issues last year. The most important was discussion about dumped sugar and the injury it could cause to the domestic market served by Lantic Sugar and the sugar beet growers. “After an incredible journey of almost a year, the tribunal hearing the matter ruled that the duties would remain on U.S. sugar but not on European Union imports,” he said.

“Certainly we are disappointed in this outcome, and the industry, led by the Canadian Sugar Institute, is appealing.”

Michel Camps of Barnwell, chairman for the board’s agriculture committee, said 2010 was another odd year for growers. Weather problems in early spring forced the loss of about 744 acres of beets. He said the wet summer idled irrigation equipment most of the year, and many producers were forced to pump water off fields.

In 2010, sugar beet researchers tested 26 varieties, all herbicide-tolerant types. Growers already have access to four H-T varieties. Researchers won praise for their work with a strip-till unit that applies dry or liquid fertilizer in a band below the seed, leaving most of the stubble between growing rows of beets to avoid wind erosion. “This, together with herbicide-tolerant seed varieties might be the future of sugar beet farming,” said Camps.

At the annual meeting, Rob Boras was re-elected president, Ron Wikkerink is the new vice-president and directors include Darren Klemen, Allen Klassen, Andrew Uytdewilligen, Ed Loman, Michel Camps, Roger Zeinstra and Lonny James.

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