The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors unanimously approved an economic disaster declaration and up to $5,396,750 in loans for sugar beet growers in northwest Wyoming and a $141,859 bridge loan for a Cheyenne recycling company during a special call-in meeting on Thursday, Aug. 3.
The Western Sugar Cooperative submitted the loan request following intense fall rains and a hard winter freeze stretching from December through February, which devastated the grower-owned cooperative’s sugar beet harvest.
Western Sugar is owned by 850 growers in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Nebraska. Western Sugar operates in five Wyoming counties: Big Horn, Goshen, Laramie, Park and Platte. Two of the cooperative’s five plants are located in Wyoming: Lovell and Torrington.
The economic disaster declaration and loan funds are applicable to Western Sugar growers in Big Horn and Park counties. Growers in Goshen, Laramie and Platte Counties, whose crops experienced pile rot resulting from an unusually warm February, were not eligible for the economic disaster declaration and loans.
“We worked really hard to find a way to qualify the southeastern growers. We are limited in how we can help because of the way the law defines a disaster,” said Board Co-Chairman Cactus Covello. “Obviously our growers in Laramie, Goshen and Platte are just as important to us as our northern growers.”
Wyoming statute defines “economic disaster” as “an event occurring in Wyoming that has an economic impact with total lost revenues to impacted businesses in a 12-calendar month period of at least $4 million or an economic impact with total lost revenues to impacted businesses in four or less counties in a 12-calendar month period of at least $1 million.”
Each producer in Big Horn and Park counties will need to complete a loan application by Sept. 15. Business Council staff will analyze each grower’s loan for sufficient collateral and cash flow. The 10-year loans will include 3.5 percent in annual interest.
In March, the board unanimously approved an economic disaster declaration and up to $5,675,650 in loans to support the 60 families with ownership stake in Wyoming Sugar, an agricultural cooperative in Big Horn, Fremont and Washakie counties. The request was made after the same intense rains and hard winter freezes that struck Western Sugar’s northwest Wyoming growers.
Wyoming sugar beet growers harvest about 950,000 tons of produce annually. The crop is one of the state’s largest contributors to the agriculture industry, contributing $35 million-$60 million to the economy. Sugar cooperatives employ hundreds of people during harvest and processing.
Wyoming is the ninth largest producer of sugar beets in the country.