This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the production of sugarcane and sugar beets.
Sugar Beet Farming
The story of the sugar industry in the United States is in fact the story of two industries: one devoted to producing sugarcane and the other to producing sugar beets. Before the twentieth century, sugarcane accounted for 95 percent of world consumption of sugar. However, modern planting and refining techniques helped make sugar beet production profitable. By the 1980s, sugar beets and sugarcane shared equally in the U.S. sugar market. Sugarcane was introduced to the United States from the Caribbean region by Jesuit priests traveling to Louisiana in 1751, and the first U.S. sugar refinery was built in the same state in 1795. Sugarcane is produced only in Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas. Western pioneers desiring their own source of sugar began sugar beet production in the United States around 1870, but their efforts proved unprofitable until the development of irrigation systems in the 1890s. Beet production provided 25 percent of the nation's sugar needs by 1920. The Red River Valley area of Minnesota and eastern North Dakota are the largest U.S. beet producing regions.
Sugarcane and sugar beets are grown mainly to produce table sugar and sucrose. Sugarcane is also produced to manufacture alcohol as fuel for vehicles. Although refining processes for sugar sources are similar, cultivation and harvesting techniques are quite different. Sugarcane is planted using stalk cuttings, and matures between eight and sixteen months, depending on the region. A crop of sugarcane may produce acceptable yields for two to three years before being replanted and, in the case of Hawaii, where there is no danger of frost, can be harvested year round. Sugarcane is most often harvested mechanically, with specially designed harvesters that cut the stalk at the bottom, strip the unneeded leaves and top, and transfer the cane to a wagon. Prior to mechanical harvesting, sugarcane production required vast numbers of laborers who, in many cases, worked under conditions of slavery or near-slavery.
Grown primarily in twelve states, sugar beets, on the other hand, are harvested annually, and have...