LOUISIANA FARMERS are harvesting sugarcane, but when harvest season winds down, some farmers may be left with a surplus of sugar they can't sell. The surplus would result from marketing allotments imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced the allotments as a means to help, not hurt, farmers, according to Mike Salassi, an economist with the LSU AgCenter. “It doesn't allow a lot of excess sugar on the market that's going to drive the price down. So its primary purpose is to keep the price up,” Salassi explained.

The allotment the USDA issued to Louisiana could mean farmers may not be able to sell up to 20 percent of the sugar they harvest this year.

“For Louisiana, the state was allocated 1.37 million tons of raw sugar,” Salassi said, adding, however, “The estimate of the amount of sugar that is out in the field that will be harvested is about 1.5 million or 1.6 million.”

But there are factors that could affect the allotments — and allow farmers to sell more sugar. “One of the factors is that the marketing allotment is adjusted or can be adjusted every quarter or sooner,” the LSU AgCenter economist explained. “So we're hoping as we go through the season the (USDA) secretary will raise the allotment and allow more sugar to be marketed.”

The allotments did not go into effect until Oct. 1, so any sugar sold before then would not be counted.

In addition, Hawaii and Puerto Rico received allotments, but they are not expected to produce much sugar, so Louisiana farmers could receive some of those allotments. And in the event that farmers are unable to sell all of their sugar, it can be stored and marketed next year.