Beet Harvest Wraps Up, Processing A Challenge
November 27, 2019 | View PDF
“The growers did a good job of getting the beets out of the ground,” stated Sidney Sugars general manager David Garland last Friday. Beet harvest for area growers officially ended on November 5 with an average of 31.89 tons per acre and 17.02 sugar. The numbers were down a bit from the average but tonnage was up a bit from what was expected.
97% of the beets were harvested, leaving 1200 acres in the ground, 900 of which growers were going through their insurance and 288 acres which would directly affect growers.
“It was an unusual year from the start,” Garland commented. The wet spring and flooding which affected all areas but primarily Sugar Valley meant that 400 acres were abandoned. A cooler, summer followed and then, in September, record rainfall hit, causing saturated fields and pile grounds.
A target date of September 24 came and went with harvest finally beginning at all stations on October 7. The factory began slicing on October 12, two weeks later than planned. More rain, snow, and light frost continued to cause delays. Severe frost the week of October 21, and a forecast of continued cold, which would provide no opportunity for the beets to heal, changed the dynamics for the remainder of harvest.
Sidney Sugars and the Montana Dakota Beets Growers board signed a Frozen Beet Addendum on October 26 to allow the resumption of harvest. Harvest continued from October 31 through November 5. A total of 186,739 tons of frozen beets were harvested. Under that agreement, Sidney Sugars processed the first 108,000 tons. The growers would retain the balance of 78,400 tons and face consequences associated with not being able to process.
Never a fan of warm weather at this time of the year because of beet storage, Garland said the higher temperatures last week caused juicing to begin from the remaining frozen beets, making processing difficult. The Grower Board and Sidney Sugars agreed to mix good beets with frozen to allow processing to continue. As of November 25, there are approximately 40,000 tons of the frozen beets left of the grower 78,400 tons. “It’s our goal to do the best for the grower and the company,” Garland emphasized.