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History of the Sugar Industry, Utah
Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia. (Links Added)
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Three problems plagued the beet sugar industry in the years that followed. First, the failure of the U.S. government to prevent a postwar agricultural depression after World War I. Farm prices and incomes dropped precipitously in 1920-21, and remained low until the 1930s, when as a result of the Great Depression they declined even further. Second, the invasion of the beet leafhopper (Eutettix tenellus, or white fly) in the 1920s caused a "blight," or "curly top," that devastated crops. Where the disease seemed to be endemic, factories were dismantled or removed to more promising locations. Thus, the plants in Lehi, Elsinore, and Payson were dismantled; the plant at Nampa, Idaho, was moved to Spanish Fork; the plant at Moroni was moved to Toppenish, Washington; and the plant at Delta was moved to Belle Fourche, South Dakota. In the 1930s a strain of highly resistant beet seeds was developed, but in the meantime the industry had been hurt.

The third factor was that the industry was forced to mechanize in order to remain competitive with cane sugar. Labor costs were reduced mechanized planting and harvesting. Before World War I, eleven hours of labor were required to produce a ton of sugar beets; by the 1930s this had declined slightly to nine hours; in 1958 it had gone down to four; and by the 1960s, it was less than three hours, which was less than one-fourth the labor requirement of the pre-World War I period. Factories also underwent improvements, especially with a process invented by Utah-born Harold Silver. But it all required capital. Although the cost of producing a ton of sugar had gone down, it still was not always competitive with the cane sugar coming in from Hawaii, the West Indies, the Philippines, and Africa.


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