Grower-owned sugar co-operative to invest $125 million in 4 Michigan facilities, ag department

BAY CITY, Mich. – A Michigan sugar producer plans to invest $125 million in four of its facilities.

The money will be used for capital projects in Michigan Sugar Company plants in Bay City, Caro, Sebewaing and Croswell, reported ( ) Thursday.

About $20 million will go toward the Bay City-based, grower-owned co-operative’s agricultural department.

Another $57 million will go over the next five years into the Croswell facility in Michigan’s Thumb Region. The investment will complete operation upgrades at the plant.

“This will allow us to produce more beets there and use all of our plants at full capacity,” Michigan Sugar community and government relations director Ray Van Driessche said.

State sugar beet growers enjoyed a record harvest in 2015.

Michigan Sugar announced earlier in December that its total 2015 production was roughly 5 million tons, representing a record-setting yield of 31.6 tons an acre.

The state’s sugar beet harvest is processed at the four Michigan Sugar facilities. The products are sold under the Pioneer Sugar and Big Chief sugar brands.

The company has about 1,000 sugar beet growers, including Gene Meylan, who farms 375 acres of sugar beets in Kawkawlin.

“It’s more than a good thing, it’s a necessary thing,” Meylan said about the investment in the production plants. “Like any business, you have to be proactive and have to have a strategic plan. We always need to be improving and investing.”

Another grower, Ken Schmidt, said there is some concern about the amount of money being put into the projects.

Schmidt farms 500 acres of sugar beets in Kawkawlin.

“We don’t know what the weather is going to be like five years from now,” Schmidt said. “So, in a sense, we’re going out on a limb. We do need to repair our factories, but you never know what the future is going to hold.”