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Published October 08, 2012, 09:36 PM

Beet producers contribute big bucks to political parties

Amenia, ND (WDAY TV) - Hard to miss the harvest. Trucks full of beets are making their way from field to pilers across the valley. But at the height of sugar beet campaign, the political campaign is also getting attention from beet producers, in the form of dollars. Big contributions from American Crystal Sugar, to candidates, as we approach Election Day.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

Amenia, ND (WDAY TV) - Hard to miss the harvest. Trucks full of beets are making their way from field to pilers across the valley. But at the height of sugar beet campaign, the political campaign is also getting attention from beet producers, in the form of dollars. Big contributions from American Crystal Sugar, to candidates, as we approach Election Day.

Bill Hale and his farming partners near Amenia are in the middle of another big harvest. Tonnage and sugar content impressive.

Bill Hale, Sugar Beet Producer: “Pretty amazing when you can get 2,800 farmers to agree on anything.

But sugar beet producers have also been kind to US House and Senate candidates. Reports today reveal American Crystal Growers have contributed just over $2 million to candidates and political action committees. Growers like Hale say it is money well spent.

Hale: “If there was a world surplus of sugar, and they dumped it on the US, our co-op would not be there.”

And the logic does make sense, every year there are new senators and reps elected to congress who don't have a clue what a sugar beet is. So producers believe it is worth it to spend money in order to make money.

And so sugar beet producers are willing to spend $2 million in lobbying on top of campaign contributions to keep sugar flowing and small town main street open.

Nick Sinner, RRV Sugar Beet Growers Assoc.: “We don't know what is going to happen in this election, so we have to be prepared to talk about sugar and tell our story. It is a matter of education.”

American Crystal is one of the top 25 Minnesota companies when it comes to lobbying. Along with campaign contributions, a clear message it is willing to spend millions in order to preserve the $3 billion industry in the valley.

The effect of this industry is main street businesses are staying open.

American Crystal still has just over a million dollars in cash it can donate to campaigns in the coming days before the election.

Minn-Dak Co-op out of Wahpeton spent $235,000 dollars on campaign contributions so far this year.

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