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SUGAR CANE GROWERS COOPERATIVE TO MECHANICALLY HARVEST 100 PERCENT OF ITS CANE BEGINNING WITH 1992/93 SEASON

SUGAR CANE GROWERS COOPERATIVE TO MECHANICALLY HARVEST 100 PERCENT OF
 ITS CANE BEGINNING WITH 1992/93 SEASON
 BELLE GLADE, Fla., June 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida plans to mechanically harvest 100 percent of its grower-members' sugar cane beginning with the 1992/93 season.
 "This has been part of our long-term plan launched in 1969 with the creation of our Mechanical Harvester Research & Development Department," says Cooperative President George H. Wedgworth. "The excellent results demonstrated with last year's crop at 81 percent mechanical harvest proved the viability of moving to 100 percent sooner than originally anticipated. We are confident that the major improvements made to the mill and sugar fabrication house will provide us with even better results in the coming year. Further, the uncertainties in the H-2A certification process and the on-going changes of interpretation of regulations by the U.S. Department of Labor has created additional uncertainties about continuing in the guest worker program.
 "The continuous unfounded legal hassles associated with the labor program have increased the cost of hand harvesting to a point where if we are to be good stewards of our growers' assets, we have no choice but to move to mechanical harvesting," he said. "We need to protect our growers' future and the economic benefits derived by Palm Beach County from us being in business."
 "We have always respected and appreciated the contributions made by the H-2A workers during the Cooperative's 30-year history," Wedgworth said. "We are saddened by the loss of these jobs and the residual effect it will have on the Caribbean Island nations."
 In order to deal with the extra leaves and non-sugar matter delivered with mechanically harvested sugar cane, the Cooperative has made significant improvements to the sugar mill and its sugar fabrication equipment, including improvement in the crystallizer station to allow for a longer time for the sugar crystals to form. This should increase yields and offset sugar losses from mechanically harvested sugar cane.
 The Cooperative mechanically harvested 81 percent of its sugar cane last season and employed 470 offshore workers. The Cooperative's remaining labor camp will be closed and offered for sale.
 During the 1991/92 season, the Cooperative harvested 2,745,129 tons of sugar cane grown on 67,581 acres of our 51 members' land. This yielded 303,860 tons of sugar (raw value), the most in its 30-year history.
 Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida
 20 Year History
 Mechanically Cut Cane as a Percentage of Total Harvest
 Crop Year Percentage
 1972/73 4.09
 1973/74 7.23
 1974/75 9.72
 1975/76 21.99
 1976/77 23.18
 1977/78 23.59
 1978/79 23.30
 1979/80 23.24
 1980/81 22.01
 1981/82 24.44
 1982/83 26.79
 1983/84 26.89
 1984/85 29.54
 1985/86 25.81
 1986/87 30.50
 1987/88 32.12
 1988/89 49.33
 1989/90 64.37
 1990/91 68.21
 1991/92 80.94
 -0- 6/18/92
 /CONTACT: Barbara J. Miedema of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, 407-996-4777/ CO: Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida ST: Florida IN: SU:


AW-JB -- FL006 -- 1678 06/18/92 17:09 EDT
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Date:Jun 18, 1992
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