WHEATLAND, N.D. — A Republican and Democrat representing two different sides of the Red River are working together to help secure more federal relief for sugar beet producers after a bad harvest.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., held a round table discussion in central Cass County Tuesday morning to meet with area farmers and executives from the American Crystal Sugar Company.
Many of the farmers are in need of disaster aid after a wet and cold fall caused one of their worst harvests on record. Flooded fields and frozen beets led up to American Crystal Sugar only getting roughly 65% of its beets out of the ground. Now, Hoeven and Peterson are teaming up to bring growers federal disaster aid.
American Crystal Sugar Vice Chair David Mueller says everybody involved in the harvest lost money. Usually, beets are considered to be a reliable crop when corn and soybeans have bad seasons. But this year, even beets suffered.
"People want to say: 'Well there's crop insurance, right?" American Crystal Sugar CEO Tom Astrup explained. "(If) you look at the numbers and you look at the payments and look at the crop insurance, the losses are still significant."
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $3.05 billion disaster relief fund for farmers. Hoeven told the roundtable that between 800 and 900 million dollars from that fund have already been used and that he and Peterson hope the information gathered at their meeting will convince the USDA to kick some of those funds to sugar beet growers.
"That's what we're working on right now," Hoeven said. "We can't say definitively, but we believe they will and we're going to do our best to get them included."
"Now we just have to figure out how to make it work for sugar growers," Hoeven added.
Peterson said he hopes it will be an easy process, saying it likely won't take much fighting in order to convince the USDA to use disaster aid for sugar beet producers.
"I hope we don't have to ... I'm still confident the 3.05 is going to cover it," Peterson said.
The USDA is expected to send out a second round of relief payments by mid-December.