The Economic Feasibility of Ethanol Production from Sugar in the UnitedStates
(on the internet at: www.usda.gov/oce/). The report found that at the current marketprices for ethanol, converting sugarcane, sugar beets and molasses to ethanol would beprofitable.
At this summer
s unusually high price, I can conclude that it
s economically feasibleto produce ethanol from sugarcane and sugar beets,
USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said.However, there is not a clear-cut case that U.S. sugar will be commercially converted toethanol anytime soon. This article will explore some of the economic and technological factorsfor the potential of sugar-based ethanol production for farmer-owned cooperatives.
U.S. sugar industry
Sugar beets are an annual crop grown in 11 states across a variety of climatic conditions, fromthe hot climate of the Imperial Valley of California to the colder climates of Montana and NorthDakota. Sugar beet byproducts include beet pulp, which can be sold for animal feed, andmolasses, which is also sold for animal feed or further processed to extract more sugar.Sugarcane is a perennial tropical crop produced in four states: Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana andTexas. Byproducts of sugarcane processing include molasses and bagasse, the fibrous materialthat remains after sugar is pressed from the sugarcane. Bagasse is often burned as fuel tohelp power the sugarcane mills.Total U.S. sugar production fell by more than 20 percent from 2000 to 2006 due to low pricesand structural changes in the industry. Production declined significantly or ceased altogether infive states.Sugar beets have gained a greater share of U.S. sugar production over the past decade, nowaccounting for 58.8 percent of the nation
s sugar output while sugarcane fell to 41.2 percent.Sugar producers and the members of farmer-owned cooperatives are increasingly interested innew technologies and product markets for their crops, including the growing ethanol market.
Cooperatives in the sugar industry
Producer-owned cooperatives now dominate thesugar beet and sugarcane processing sectors asmarket conditions prompted more farmers totake ownership of their processing facilities toensure a market for their beets or cane.Sugar beet processing: Beet processing facilitiesconvert raw sugar beets directly into refinedsugar in a 1-step process. While planted sugarbeet acreage has fallen slightly since the 1990s,sugar production actually increased due toinvestments in new processing equipment, theadoption of new technologies, improved cropvarieties and enhanced technologies for the
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