Legacy of Louisiana Sugarcane Endures with Education
Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC Makes Learning A Little Sweeter
A new scholarship created by Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC aims to support the legacy of Louisiana sugarcane growers into the future. The annual scholarship, managed by the LSU College of Agriculture, will be geared toward students studying plant and soils systems or agricultural business.
“There is always a need for great young talent to enter the industry,” said Larry Faucheaux, General Manager and CEO of Louisiana Sugar Refining. A third-generation employee of the company himself, Faucheaux has seen both the company and the industry evolve. “There is always a need for great young talent,” he added. “It was only fitting that we target an area for the scholarship that allows for just that.”
For more than a century, Louisiana State University College of Agriculture has educated multitudes of students in agriculture, farming and related disciplines. The College of Agriculture displays commitment to agriculture production and sustainability in Louisiana, with graduates joining the workforce as nutritionists, food scientist, natural resource managers, farmers, horticulturalists, educators and economists.
The College of Agriculture offers an array of scholarships geared toward both incoming freshman and continuing education students. The addition of the Louisiana Sugar Refining scholarship strengthens this resource base. Faucheaux said that this scholarship is a part of the organization’s continuous commitment to the industry and its local roots.
“The College of Agriculture is going to manage the promotion of the scholarship, as well as the scholarship itself,” said Faucheaux, who estimates the scholarship at around $2,000 per year.
Sugarcane production is agriculture — a natural-resource based industry that requires good stewardship for the future. A huge part of that is innovation. In Louisiana, sugarcane is produced on more than 400,000 acres of land in 22 parishes with an annual production of around 12 million tons. Data from the 2017-18 harvest reported a record-breaking 8.2 million tons. Specialists from the LSU Agriculture Center cite an above average rainfall and the warmest seasonal temperatures on record to the success of the cane crop, which is both a major part of the state’s economy as well as its culture for tourists and locals alike.
Since inception in 2003, Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC successfully stabilized the growth of Louisiana sugarcane farmers, enabling the integration of more than 800 growers in the industry through this joint venture between Cargill, Inc, Louisiana Sugar Growers and Refiners. The powerhouse added Imperial Sugar Company in 2007, securing the future of the 110-year-old Gramercy refinery with funds to access new technology and improved infrastructure. In 2011, Imperial Sugar sold its share, resulting in the facility that, now operational, is capable of refining 2 billion pounds of white sugar annually for distribution to commercial and residential customers throughout the United States. Locally, the organization provides direct jobs for approximately 180 residents in St. James and the surrounding parishes.
Louisiana Sugar Refining LLC’s home is in the 54-mile jurisdiction of the Port of South Louisiana, which extends three parishes along the Mississippi River and is the largest tonnage grain port in the United States, representing a $190 million investment inclusive of $90 million in owner equity plus $100 million in revenue bonds issued by the State of Louisiana.
Sugar subsidies were among the hot topics of the Farm Bill that made its way through Congress in 2018. Sugar subsidies are a worldwide phenomenon, resulting in around 80% of refined sugar sold domestically. Additional factors of currency exchange rates and surplus and shortages in major producers worldwide affect the historically volatile market. The support of Louisiana lawmakers on Capitol Hill to maintain the current arrangement speaks to the importance of the crop for Louisiana’s economy, arguing that subsidies are essential safeguards against bargain imports with questionable quality.
Refined sugar is used across industries, but the most beloved are found in food and beverage products. The cloud of powdered sugar ascending from a fresh beignet, the glue that binds milk, butter and pecans for sweet creamy pralines, and the food for fermentation of beer are among the many local to Louisiana uses for refined sugar, mostly derived from the tall grassy stems of the sugarcane plant.
Sugarcane requires frost-free conditions and ample raining during its growing season, making Louisiana soil among the highest producers in the United States for this powerhouse of the agricultural business. Louisiana has the oldest and most historic sugar production in the United States, owing to both the tropical climate and port access. Support for the agricultural sciences will ensure the future.
“We are looking for some bright young talent that has a technical mind,” said Faucheaux. “The industry has flourished for 200 years, and there’s no reason it can’t continue for another 200.”