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Sugarbeet Institute returns to Grand Forks, N.D.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — One of the Upper Midwest’s oldest indoor annual agricultural trade shows is returning to Grand Forks, N.D.

The 54th International Sugarbeet Institute is set for March 16 to 17 at the Alerus Center. The event, which rotates annually between Grand Forks and the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D., was held last year in Fargo.

The Red River Valley of western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota is the nation’s leading sugar beet growing region, and the Institute sometimes is billed as the nation’s largest sugar beet trade show.

An estimated 1,500 to 1,800 people and at least 120 companies, exhibiting more than $5 million in products and equipment, will participate this year. Doors open at 9 a.m. and close mid-afternoon, both days. Admittance and parking are free.

Prices for sugar beets, like those of most other crops, are depressed, but that hasn’t affected interest in the Sugarbeet Institute, says Don Lilleboe, one of the event’s organizers.

“Commodity prices are on everybody’s mind, of course, but we haven’t seen that reflected in terms of exhibitor interest or attendance,” he says.

Highlights include these key keynote presentations:

  • 1:15 a.m. March 16, “Washington Update: Sugar Policy, Economy, Trade Policy, Elections and Impacts,” by Jim Wiesemeyer, senior vice president of Informa Economics Inc. Wiesemeyer, a veteran observer of agricultural issues in the nation’s capital, is “very entertaining and informative,” Lilleboe says.
  • 10:25 a.m. March 17, “Sugar: Historical Perspectives,” by David Berg, CEO and former president of Moorhead, Minn.-based American Crystal Sugar Co.

Berg will retire at the end of August, but hasn’t talked about it publicly, according to published reports.

“He’s edging up toward retirement, so it will be interesting to see what he has to say (at the Sugarbeet Institute),” Lilleboe says.

A wide range of sugar beet equipment will be exhibited, including at least one self-propelled beet harvester from Europe, he says.

Sugar beet farmers, like other ag producers, continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently, and many of the exhibits will involve products or services that involve greater efficiency, says Mohamed Khan, extension sugar beet specialist for North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota and a Sugarbeet Institute organizer.

A little history

The event began in 1963 as a special seminar in the Red River Valley Winter Shows Arena in Crookston, Minn. Later it became a two-day trade show and educational seminar, according to the Institute.

Originally known as as the Sugar Beet Growers’ Seminar, the “International” was added in 1980, when Manitoba sugar growers came aboard. Most of the people who attend now are from the Upper Midwest, but the Institute continues to attract international visitors, as well as attendees from across the country.

The Crookston Arena hosted the Institute for many years, with the adjacent Crookston National Guard Armory used for the educational and informational seminar held currently with the trade show.

The Institute now alternates annually between the Alerus Center and the Fargodome, the two largest facilities in eastern North Dakota and both relatively convenient for Red River Valley sugarbeet growers. The arrangement seems popular and successful, Lilleboe says.