We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota sugarbeet grower heads World Association of Beet and Cane Growers

The goals of World Association of Beet and Cane Growers is to contribute to the economic, technical and social well being of growers through exchanging information and ideas on problems they encounter and to contribute to the professional representation of beet and cane growers in national and international forums.

A man wearing blue jeans and a red shirt stands in a sugar beet field.
World Association of Beet and Cane Growers President David Thompson raises sugar beets on his farm near East Grand Forks, Minnesota. Photo taken July 3, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
We are part of The Trust Project.

EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — David Thompson has deep roots in the industry he leads.

The newly elected president of the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers is the third generation of his family to grow sugarbeets and his father, Ordean, was part of a group of farmers who formed American Crystal Sugar Co. in 1973.

Thompson, who unanimously was elected WABCG president, will serve a three-year term in the organization, which is made up of 36 cane and sugarbeet growers’ associations from 34 countries across the globe.

The goals of the non-profit growers organization are to contribute to the economic, technical and social well-being of growers through exchanging information and ideas on problems they encounter and to contribute to the professional representation of beet and cane growers in national and international forums.

“It seems like no matter where we are, we all have the same type of problems to a degree,” Thompson said. Talking with growers from around the world about their mutual problems helps them come up with solutions.

ADVERTISEMENT

Thompson also has been active in the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, previously serving on its board of directors and now as a World Association of Beet and Cane Growers liaison.

Thompson began farming in 1987 after working in the insurance industry for three years. The Concordia College business administration major and his wife, Jill, farm with his brother, Kevin Thompson, and his son, Neil Thompson, raising soybeans and wheat, along with sugarbeets, on a farm northeast of East Grand Forks.

This year, despite the cold, wet spring that delayed planting, the sugarbeets in mid-July look good and Thompson is optimistic about this year’s production.

As the sugarbeet harvest approaches Thompson is grateful for his long-time employees who help him bring the crop in, noting that several of them have worked for Thompson Brothers Farms for 20 years and as many as 32 years.

 A brown sign says Thompson Bros. Farm and has a logo of two sugar beets and three stalks of wheat.
David Thompson, his brother Kevin Thompson, and his son, Neil Thompson, own Thompson Bros. Farms, northeast of East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

For Thompson, sugarbeet farming is not only about production: It’s about learning more about the industry and giving back to it through participation in grower organizations

“I’ve always liked being involved,” Thompson said.

As president he will attend the organization’s annual meeting, which is held each year in London. The World Association of Beet and Cane Growers also has a summer meeting, at a location which alternates between a sugar cane growing country and a sugarbeet growing country.

This year’s meeting, which was scheduled to be in Fargo, North Dakota, was postponed because of COVID-19, and now will be held there in in 2024. Next year’s meeting will be in Columbia, a cane growing country.

ADVERTISEMENT

Being involved in the WABCG broadens Thompson’s perspective of the sugar industry and gives him a window into the lives of sugar cane and sugarbeet growers in other countries

“They report on what is going on in their countries,” he said. Gaining insight from other countries' growers gives Thompson a heads-up on sugar industry issues that U.S. growers also may face.

For example, in Europe, sugarbeet growers are being pressured by environmentalists to use hand and mechanical methods instead of herbicides to keep their crops weed-free, Thompson said.

He believes that increases, not decreases, the carbon footprint because it involves more trips down the sugarbeet fields.

One way U.S. farmers can get out in front of that before it becomes an issue in their country is to explain to the public the efforts sugarbeet growers make to be stewards of the land.

“You can never educate enough or put out enough good information,” he said.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURESUGARBEETS
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
What to read next
South Dakota U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, one of 51 U.S. representatives who signed the Sept. 26 letter, told Agweek in a prepared statement, “China is not our friend, and if a purchase such as the one near the Grand Forks Air Force Base is a strategic move by the Chinese Communist Party to intercept sensitive U.S. military communications, this would cause serious problems."
Wheat farmers across northeast North Dakota got a lot of combining done during the last week in September, said Randy Mehlhoff, North Dakota State University Langdon Research Extension Center director.
Effective stockmanship isn't anything touchy-feely, says Dr. Ron Gill of Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. It's about improving your livestock's production by keeping them calm and safe. And that, says Jerry Yate of West Virginia University, also helps assure consumers that animal agriculture is selling a product that has received proper care.
Volunteer corn is more prevalent in the 2022 growing season and can cause some yield losses, but Bruce Potter, an integrated pest management specialist at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center at Lamberton, Minnesota, said the bigger issues are the insects and diseases that the corn can bring. Of particular concern is the corn rootworm.