Business Council Grants Emergency Declaration, Loan to Beet Growers

Wyoming's Business Council granted an economic emergency declaration and approved nearly $5.7 million in loans to sugar beet growers in three counties Thursday.

Action came during a special call-in meeting and will provide individual loans to 38 growers representing about 60 families who own the Wyoming Sugar Co. Loans are for 10 years with 3.5 percent in annual interest. Josh Keefe, who's the economic development finance manager for the business council, explained the issue.

Keefe said the families that own Wyoming Sugar live in Fremont, Big Horn, Park and Washakie counties. But he said there were no documented losses from Park County, so staff recommendation was that the emergency declaration and loan approval be for the other three counties, but not Park. He said the economic impact for those three counties is the equivalent of 26 jobs, or about $6.6 million per year.

Keefe said Wyoming Sugar's situation didn't qualify for emergency financial aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Farm Service Agency and, in response to a question from a business council director, he said crop insurance wouldn't cover the situation because the beets were damaged after they were harvested.

Keefe said each beet grower will have to apply individually for a loan, and loan applications must be completed by May 15. He said the individual loan amounts will not exceed the producer's proportion to the lot. He said the average loan will range from $13,000 to $500,000, and the average loan will be about $158,000.