Business Council Provides Relief To Big Horn Basin, Fremont County Growers

The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday to support the 60 families with ownership stake in Wyoming Sugar, an agricultural cooperative in the Big Horn Basin.

The state’s economic development agency will provide up to $5,675,650 in loans to provide relief in the wake of a weather-related disaster for area sugar beet growers.

Intense fall rains and a hard winter freeze devastated last year’s harvest in Big Horn, Fremont and Washakie counties.

Staff will now analyze each loan for sufficient collateral and cash flow. The 10-year loans will include 3.5 percent in annual interest.

On average, each loan will be about $158,000, though that amount will range from $13,000 to nearly $500,000.

This will be the fourth time the Business Council, Wyoming’s economic development agency, has provided loans under the disaster relief provision of its Challenge Loan program.

“Our mission is to increase Wyoming’s prosperity, and agriculture is a huge contributor to that prosperity,” said Shawn Reese, chief executive officer of the Business Council. “The sugar beet industry in particular is important to the Big Horn Basin. The loans will help these growers and families get back on their feet and get ready for the next growing season.”

Josh Keefe, the agency’s economic development finance manager, will be at the Worland Community Center April 4 to visit with those affected by the disaster. The deadline for submitting a loan application is May 15.

The agency has provided 123 alfalfa, bean and beet growers $6,038,396 in economic disaster loans since 2000. Of those, six growers defaulted on a total of $84,201. The interest income since 2000 totals $941,414 and the principal remains untouched.

For more information, call Keefe at 307-777-2882.

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