President and CEO of Holly Sugar Reflects on Sidney Holly Sugar
By Lois Kerr

Roger HillThe Sidney Holly Sugar plant has always been a special factory within the Holly Sugar family of processing plants. Roger Hill, managing director for Imperial Sugar, overseeing the agricultural operation, and who also holds the position of president and CEO of Holly Sugar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Sugar, says, "Sidney is very special. We couldn't ask for a better group of growers to work with. We have a real partnership in the development of the sugar industry in the Yellowstone Valley."

Hill points out that sugar production in Sidney has more than doubled since 1982.

"Growers have done an outstanding job in improving their production, through good farm practices and through the use of improved seed varieties," he comments. "I think Sidney growers grow the best sugar beets in the U.S. They are noted as leaders in high sugar content and in quality."

The bulk of company capital expenditures has gone to the Sidney plant in the past several years. "The bulk of the capital expenditures has gone to Sidney in recent years because of commitment from growers," Hill notes. "The development of irrigation projects both in eastern Montana and in western North Dakota have helped show this commitment."

He continues, "Sidney is an excellent sugar beet producing area. It has the right climate, long daylight hours that give tremendous growth, and with generally decent harvest weather. Usually the area has cold winters allowing for proper beet storage."

Hill points to the tremendous success story for Sidney area growers. "Growers produce three times as much sugar as they did 20 years ago. We sell most of our sugar to the mid west, or Chicago market, and sell most of it as bulk sugar."

Hill believes the Rocky Mountain Silo Company, a joint venture between growers and Holly Sugar, greatly improved company capabilities, allowing the Sidney plant to produce, store and market more sugar. "This joint venture was the first of its kind in the industry," Hill notes. "I'm proud of that."

Hill applauds grower Don Steinbeisser's contributions to, and his impact on, the Sidney area sugar beet growers, the Sidney factory and the sugar industry as a whole. "Don has contributed a lot of time and effort to the industry, and has provided true leadership," Hill remarks. "He's been president of the local beet growers association for many years, he served as president of the national American Sugar Beet Growers Association, he's participated in farm legislation in Washington, DC, he's been active in trade agreements, NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. He's done it for the growers and for the industry. He has an excellent supportive family to help him, and as a result, he's been of tremendous benefit for growers in Sidney and for the sugar industry as a whole."

Hill also commends the research facility staff members at Sidney. "Holly Sugar has a partnership not only with the growers, but also with staff at the research center," Hill comments. "Jerry Bergman and his staff at the research center have worked with the industry to find better ways to grow beets. They have been very cooperative, very anxious to work with us, and very helpful in developing opportunities in the Sidney area."

Despite the current low sugar prices, Hill believes Sidney has a bright future. "I am very optimistic for the future of Sidney," he says. "I see opportunities to expand. When a company has a good relation with growers, and both company and growers are on the same page, that's where I want to invest for the future."

Last year's warm winter allowed beets to spoil in the piles, with a resulting high sugar loss for the company. As a result, Holly Sugar corporate office reduced sugar beet contracts in the area by a few thousand acres. Hill sees this as a temporary measure. "We have an oversupply of sugar on the market now," he explains. "We thought it prudent to cut back and try to get supply in line with demand for sugar. However, we hope to get back on track and take on more acres again in the future."

The Holly Sugar Corporation itself started as a fledgling company in 1905, with corporate offices located in Colorado Springs, CO. The Holly Sugar company thrived, and continued to grow by building new facilities and by acquiring factories already in production, until Holly Sugar became one of the largest beet sugar processors in the U.S.

In 1988, Imperial Sugar acquired Holly Sugar. Imperial also acquired other sugar companies in the U.S., and as a result, Imperial Sugar today consists of what used to be 11 separate companies. This makes Imperial Sugar the largest producer of sugar in the U.S. today. One-third of the product comes from 12 sugar beet factories, and the remaining two-thirds of the product comes from four cane refineries. Holly Sugar remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Sugar.

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