The Roundup -

2016 A Challenging Year For Beet Growers

 

It has been an interesting and challenging year for Sidney Sugars, Inc. and area beet growers.

Most recently, a breach in Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project's main canal south of Sidney stopped irrigation water from Intake downstream. Coffer dams installed by Franz Construction and LYIP returned water to the Savage area, with approximately 5400 acres able to receive water. While 13,000 acres of beet crop are affected, the largest area of concern is about 3,000 acres on gravel ridges and sand bars between Sidney and Fairview.

Sidney Sugars agricultural manager Duane Peters offered high praise to both LYIP and Franz Construction for their heroic efforts to repair the canal breach. "They've been really good with progress reports. If everything goes well, there should be water by the end of the week," he said. General manager Dave Garland also praised both entities. "We were out there yesterday (August 29) watching Franz Construction workers. They were like ants, all over, getting the job done. It's amazing what the local companies have done, stepping up to get the water flowing again."

Root samples will be taken Thursday to determine the progress of the crop. Projections are for 30.5 tons, which would be slightly down from the past two years. The agriculturalists are happy with what they're seeing, with bigger beets due to a thinner stand. "It shows all of the hard work the farmers have put in this year," Peters said.

A three inch rain, which should have been great, caused a lot of crusting. Replant acres were higher, with rain, wind, and crusting all issues. The thinner stand was a result, with bigger beets. "The bigger beets are not necessarily better," Peters explained. "Sometimes the sugar isn't as good. But, with the new varieties, that may change."

All areas have had some kind of event which could affect tonnage. Hail, rain, wind, and even pipelines going through fields, will all have an impact on this year's crop.

The projected date for beginning harvest is September 26. A decision on which stations will open first will be made after this week's root samples are analyzed. Beets will also be pulled in the stressed areas to see what they look like. "Our compliments go to the growers for all the hard work they have put in this year, and we are looking forward to a safe and smooth harvest," Peters stated.

Since campaign ended in March, Sidney Sugars employees have been busy getting ready for the next one. Raymond Carlson, operations manager, explained that there are projects every year, designed to make the operation more efficient and safer.

Concrete work was done in the beet tailings area to minimize sloppy areas. "It's a big improvement that the workers in that area will really appreciate," he said.

They are wrapping up an upgrade to the motor control center, replacing electrical gear on the beet end, making the system more reliable.

"There are always more general, capital improvements being made," Carlson said. "We're constantly adding more automation. This year we worked on the drying area, the first of a two to three year project."

More culverts have been purchased to use for storage and cooling. Those will primarily go to the Sugar Valley Station at Fairview.

A lot of work has gone into making the tare lab more efficient, a fact that everyone will appreciate, from the growers to the temporary workers who fill the lab positions each harvest.

Bottom screens in the tower diffuser, which was put in in 1998, were replaced this summer. "That was a major undertaking which previously would have needed to be done by another company. However, we have some good talent in-house and were able to do that ourselves," Carlson said proudly. The lime kiln was staring to show some concerning wear, so it has been rebricked, making it good for years to come.

One of the boilers has been retubed. "We've gotta have steam," Carlson exclaimed.

After several years of struggling to find qualified personnel, the employment picture at Sidney Sugars is pretty good. "It's nice to see some of our employees who have been around for several campaigns start to take ownership," Carlson said. Applications are up for this season, but the company is always looking for good workers.

 

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