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Published March 11, 2011, 12:00 AM

Beet show looks to future

North America’s largest sugar beet trade show returns to Fargo next week with a national speaker who will address one of the industry’s hottest topics: Roundup Ready sugar beets.

North America’s largest sugar beet trade show returns to Fargo next week with a national speaker who will address one of the industry’s hottest topics: Roundup Ready sugar beets.

Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, will be the featured speaker at the 49th International Sugarbeet Institute on Wednesday and Thursday at the Fargodome.

Markwart will deliver a 2011 outlook for the industry, addressing the crafting of a new farm bill, crop insurance developments, trade issues and the past year’s focus on genetically modified Roundup Ready sugar beets, which comprise roughly 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beets.

“It’s on everybody’s front burner, so he’ll spend a fair amount of time updating everybody on that,” said Don Lilleboe, secretary for the 2011 Sugarbeet Institute Committee.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last month it will allow growers to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets this year – under strict conditions – as it completes an environmental impact statement on the beets, which are engineered to withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

Supporters of Roundup Ready sugar beets scored another victory Feb. 25 when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco overturned a district court judge’s order to destroy seed plants, or stecklings, which will produce seed for the 2012 sugar beet crop.

However, the future of Roundup Ready beets remains unclear, as environmentalists continue to pursue legal challenges.

With uncertainty looming, new chemicals for treating sugar beets will be featured among the 127 exhibits at the trade show, said Bob Cournia, exhibits coordinator for the Sugarbeet Institute.

Cournia, an American Crystal grower near Crookston, Minn., said growers expect to hear by the end of March if the co-op will allow them to plant Roundup Ready sugar beets and, if so, what provisions will be in place.

“We’re still sitting in kind of limbo, and it’s starting to get really late,” he said.

Drainage tile also seems to be a big item this year for exhibitors, he said.

The two-day trade show, which alternates between Fargo and Grand Forks, drew 2,700 people last year, and similar attendance is anticipated this year, Lilleboe said.

Most visitors are from the Red River Valley and south-central Minnesota, home to three major sugar beet cooperatives: American Crystal Sugar Co., Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. The show also draws from other sugar producing states such as Montana, Michigan and Nebraska, Lilleboe said.

Growers will peruse exhibits set up by seed suppliers, agrichemical companies, software designers and manufacturers of planters, harvesters and other equipment, he said.

“The main focus is just to allow growers to walk around and talk to the commercial companies and get updated on products and services,” he said.

Doors open at 9 a.m. both days at the Fargodome. Markwart will speak at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday and 10:10 a.m. Thursday.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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