McKenzie & Williams Counties To Meet With Sugar Beet Growers This Month

Sugar beet growers across the region are finding themselves having to make some tough decisions. Approximately 32,000 acres throughout McKenzie, Williams, Roosevelt and Richland counties have been previously dedicated to sugar beet production, and the recent announcement of Sidney Sugars' closing will impact all of them. The next closest sugar beet factories are located in Billings or Hillsboro, ND, however federal sugar allotment is tied to the factories themselves, making switching crops growers' only option.

"Shutting down the factory was the avenue Crystal Sugars needed to complete to shift the allotment from our region into their other growing regions in the United States. Our region's farmers will be relying heavily on area agronomists and researchers to determine what will be the best fit agronomically for their farms," stated Williams County Commissioner Beau Anderson. "Their (growers) concerns are centered around what to grow on those acres in the short term as the acres were prepped last fall for sugar beets. The big concern is the value of the specialized equipment that growers have. A sharp decrease in the value of this equipment is a tough blow to the farms' financial position."

"My concerns are what their beet equipment is worth, and the cost of new equipment for other crops," stated McKenzie County Commissioner Clint Wold. "Sugar beets have been a large crop in the valley for many years, but the farmers will adapt like they always do to survive."

Devan Leo, NDSU Agriculture and Natural Resources McKenzie County extension agent, said that she has had McKenzie County growers reach out to her and that corn and soybeans are the most popular crops they are thinking of switching to, though there are definitely concerns about limited elevator storage.

"We will talk about a few other options for some of them; I always try to advise choosing the route with the least amount of added input costs. If they do not currently own equipment to put in certain crops or do not have grain bins to store seed in, then those are added costs they were not prepared for and would likely cause high stress to them," she said. "As producers in the county and neighboring counties, I am most concerned about their well-being and I want this transition period to go as smoothly as possible for them."

Leo is working to set up a meeting with producers in Fairview sometime between March 20 and 24. The Williams County Extension Office will meet with sugar beet producers in Fairview March 23.

"There will be far reaching impacts from the closure as the factory is shuddered. There is no way to totally measure how far a facility this large will impact a region like where we operate. However, the Sidney factory has provided support financially as a thriving member of our region for a long time. This will be a community member that we will dearly miss," added Williams County Commissioner Anderson.


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