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The Michigan Sugar Company shared this aerial photo of sugarbeet piles in Bay City in October of 2015.
Michigan Sugar Company / Facebook

BAY CITY, Mich. - Michigan's sugar beet growers say they have harvested a record crop this year.

The Michigan Sugar Co., a Bay City-based grower-owned cooperative, said Tuesday the total 2015 production was roughly 5 million tons, representing a record-setting yield of 31.6 tons an acre.

Michigan Sugar CEO Mark Flegenheimer credits production increases to technological advances. In a news release, he praised the farmers' ability to overcome severe weather that hit the rural Thumb and Saginaw Valley regions during the growing season.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user kregarious)

Sugar beets are large white beets that grow well in Michigan’s cooler climate. In fact, farmers have grown sugar beets in the Bay area for more than 100 years. The beets are planted at the end of April and harvested at the beginning of September. From then until March, the beets are processed into sugar.

Refineries run 24 hours a day and seven days a week with no breaks for holidays. If machines were to stop in the middle of the process, sticky molasses would harden inside the equipment. In the end, the sugar beets become white granular sugar, powdered sugar, or brown sugar. If you’ve bought a bag of sugar at a Michigan grocery store, chances are it’s sugar beet sugar from the Michigan Sugar Company.

Things are going pretty well for the Michigan sugar industry now. But twenty years ago, the industry nearly dissolved. Steve Poindexter is a sugar beet specialist with Michigan State University:

“The sugar industry, back in the ‘90s, was struggling, trying to get production up. The yields were down and not going up, and profitability was very low.”

That was the result of a push toward raising beets with higher sugar content. The experiment was a failure. The low yields caused many farmers to stop growing beets. Things got so bad, Michigan sugar beet farmers were granted almost 20 million dollars in disaster funds.

Rodney Burton / creative commons

There's long been a tug of war between corn growers and sugar refiners over who can get their sweetener into more products. Reuters reports that high fructose corn syrup has been gaining on sugar lately because of higher sugar prices.

Now, sugar growers are suing over a ad campaign that is trying to change the image of high fructose corn syrup.

Michigan Sugar Company has joined a lawsuit against corn processors who are trying to rebrand high-fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar."

Sweet N' Low, sugar, and salt and pepper shakers
William Hartz / Flickr

I always thought twice before adding those little pink packets to my iced tea because a little voice in my head was telling me they were bad. No proof, just something I had heard somewhere.

As it turns out, saccharin WAS on EPA's hazardous constituent list. It's been on the list since 1980. The substance was put on the list because the EPA's Carcinogen Assessment Group listed it as a "potential human carcinogen."