Letters From the West

Amalgamated Sugar owes federal government millions

Sugar beets are unloaded on to a beet piler at Amalgamated Sugar Co. in Twin Falls. (Idaho Statesman file photo)

Sugar beets are unloaded on to a beet piler at Amalgamated Sugar Co. in Twin Falls.
(Idaho Statesman file photo)

The western sugar industry owed the federal government $644 million for loans made to processors including Amalgamated Sugar.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Amalgamated, based in Boise, borrowed $274 million this fiscal year at an interest rate of 1.125 percent to 1.250 percent. The company, which has sugar beet processing plants in Nampa, Nyssa, Ore. Twin Falls and Paul is cooperatively owned by sugar beet farmers throughout the region.

With domestic sugar prices down 45 percent the sugar support program is not in a good place, especially since the House voted down the Farm Bill last week. The Journal said USDA said if prices, now at about 19 cents a pound, stay below 21 cents, some processors may not be able to repay their loans.

Sugar beets are an important high value crop in Idaho. The 5.6 million tons produced in 2009 was worth $252 million.

I called Amalgamated for comment but have not had a call back yet.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West