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Wrapping up - Sugarbeet harvest nears completion in Wyo

Written by Saige Albert

After an usually warm harvest season, sugarbeet harvest finished in northwest Wyoming and Montana on Nov. 1 and is expected to be complete in southeast Wyoming, Nebraska and northern Colorado by Nov. 10.

“We had an extremely dry harvest, and it was also extremely warm,” comments Western Sugar Agricultural Manager Randall Jobman on the season. 

The warm harvest created additional challenges for harvesters and sugar companies alike. 

Warm weather

Jobman notes that October 2014 was very warm – and possibly one of the warmest on record. 

“We had to go through some heat scheduling this year,” he says. “We were open very early in the mornings and closed early in the day for 98 percent of October.”

Because beets should be stored at no higher than 50 degrees, when temperatures exceeded those levels, harvests stopped. 

“We took extraordinary measures to put the beets in the pile cool – at 50 degrees or below,” Jobman says. “Now we need the weather to cool off. In the perfect world, we’d like beets to lie in the pile at refrigerated temperatures – in the mid-30s to 40s.”

Sugar content

Though harvest was slowed by heat scheduling, Jobman mentions the crop is improved over last year’s levels. 

“The Lovell crop came in at over 26.5 tons per acre with a 17.42 percent sugar,” Jobman explains. “The sugar content is 18 percent better than last year.”

In Montana, producers saw yields at 33.5 tons per acre and sugar at 17.62 percent, or 17 percent better than one year ago.

“It was an extremely good harvest,” he adds. “Yields were slightly less than anticipated based on a few limited samples, but it was still a very good year.”

Jobman attributes the good harvest in Montana to timely planting and opportune rains. While rain near Lovell delayed planting this spring, the rest of the year went well for the area. 

South region

The south region of Western Sugar’s operations encompasses southeast Wyoming, eastern Nebraska and northern Colorado, and Agricultural Manager Jerry Darnell says harvest for the region was 95 percent complete as of Nov. 1. 

“We had a warm harvest with above normal temperatures,” Darnell explains, also noting that the region took measures to keep beets cool. “We did a lot of late night and early morning harvests when temperatures were suitable for long-term storage.”

Darnell welcomes the cool temperatures in the forecast for the next several weeks, adding, “Looking at the forecast, we will be in good shape for beet storage.”

Though harvest is not yet complete, Darnell notes that at this point, Nebraska and southeast Wyoming are on track for a 27.7-ton harvest, with 17.74 percent sugar. Colorado harvests will likely hit 31.3 tons per acre and 17.25 percent sugar.

Compared to last year, he says, “This year was a lot better. We had below normal sugar last year.”

Darnell marks temperature as the primary factor the improvement of the sugar content in the 2014 crop over 2013.

“We will hopefully wrap up our harvest by Nov. 10 with the last five percent,” he says. 

Sugarbeets will be processed until late February at both locations. 

Sugar pricing

With improved sugar content compared to a year ago, Jobman says, “Sugar pricing is also better than a year ago.”

The American Sugar Alliance reported on Oct. 7 that the 2014 crop year would end with a surplus of sugar. USDA also reported that America’s sugar stocks-to-use ratio was at 15.2 percent as of Sept. 30. 

“Stocks-to-use is a measurement of surplus, and in this case means that even if we didn’t produce another pound of sugar, there is enough leftover from the 2014 crop to meet 15.2 percent of America’s annual consumption,” the American Sugar Alliance said. 

Influencing factors

Sugar prices are also affected by imports.

Recently, U.S. sugar producers complained that Mexico’s subsidies for its sugar industry allowed the country to flood the U.S. sugar market with a cheap supply. As a result, in August, the U.S. imposed preliminary tariffs on the country’s sugar supply. 

However, on in an Oct. 28 Wall Street Journal article, it was reported that draft agreements have been signed between the U.S. and Mexico to ensure Mexican sugar doesn’t flood the U.S. market. 

The agreement would suspend any investigations into claims of unfairly traded exports, says the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“I am pleased that we were able to reach agreement in this important matter,” says Stefan Selig, under secretary of Commerce for International Trade. “The agreements should provide critical stability in a market that is important to both countries, while also ensuring that farmers and sugar refiners in the United States have an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..