Despite record September rain and an epic October snowstorm, sugar beets in North Dakota and Minnesota will be harvested this fall, farmers say.
About 272,000 of the sugar beet acres farmers grow for American Crystal were unharvested as of Monday, Oct. 14, said Jeff Schweitzer, American Crystal Sugar Co. spokesman. That's about one-third of the available acres. Typically, farmers plant about 380,000 for the cooperative, but this year were allowed to increase their acreage by about 10,0000 because a cold, wet spring delayed planting.
Both the “pre-pile” sugar beet harvest, which began in mid-August, and the official start of harvest on Oct. 1 were delayed by wet weather. Since then, it’s been a battle to get the sugar beets out of the field, but one that American Crystal Sugar Co. is confident it will win.
“We’re going to make every attempt to get every acre that is harvestable into the co-op and make sugar out of it,” Schweitzer said Monday, noting that while the bulk of the crop still is in the ground, there is plenty of time left to harvest it.
“We’re far from concluding our harvest activity,” he said. “We’ve harvested beets in November. We harvested beets into early December. We’re mid-month October. We’re hoping the weather will take a turn for the better."
American Crystal agricultural managers talk to their shareholders daily about when they believe they might be able to return to their fields to harvest, he said Monday.
“Everybody in this company is sitting back to see where Mother Nature takes us,” said Daniel Younggren, Red River Valley Sugar beet Growers Association president. From 6 to 10 inches of snow fell last week near Hallock, Minn., where he grows beets, according to Younggren.
Younggren is optimistic that by next week, barring more big rains, he will be back in the field. The sugar beets still are alive, which means they will take up moisture, helping dry the ground, he noted.
Farmers aren’t anywhere ready to give up on the crop, Younggren said.
“Everybody is optimistic and resilient. Last year, we had 8 inches of snow. We got them all in,” he said.
Across the Red River in North Dakota, Mark DeMars, a sugar beet grower from Bathgate, N.D., also was confident Monday he would be able to harvest the remainder of his crop.
‘We had a tough fall last year, and my dad talks about in the '80s, there was a tough one,” DeMars said. “I think with the weather coming at us, it’s going to be fine. It’s going to take a little drying time, but I do see us getting all of them."
Said Schweitzer: “We’ve had some difficult harvests. We’ve had some smooth ones. No two or no 10 harvests are ever the same. They’re unique. It’s fall in the Red River Valley. It’s just very unpredictable.”
A fast-moving weather system may drop snow or rain on northeast North Dakota and northwest Minnesota on Tuesday, Oct. 15, said Brad Hopkins, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks. After that, temperatures are expected to warm into the mid-50s to 60 degrees and dry weather is expected.
The eight-to 14-day outlook is for near-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation, Hopkins said.