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Crops

Harvest season, Farmers work to beat the weather with harvests

Around Wyoming, farmers have welcomed the warmer days that spread across parts of the state in late October. Sugarbeets, one of the crops harvested in the Big Horn Basin and southeast Wyoming, are coming in quickly.

“Here in Nebraska and southeast Wyoming, we are 94 percent complete with harvest,” commented Jerry Darnell of Western Sugar Cooperative. 

For this year’s crop, he noted that tonnage is high, but sugar content is lower than year’s past.

“Tonnages are looking good right now,” he explained. “We are going to come out with about a 29.5 ton crop. Tonnage-wise, that is a record crop for us.”

However, Darnell said that sugar percentage is only around 15.3 percent, a significant dip from the past. 

“We had a really hydrated beet this year,” Darnell explained of the reasons the crop’s sugar content is down. “We had a lot of moisture, so the beet has a lot more water than normal.”

Darnell also marked that an unusually warm September means the beets didn’t begin to store sugar, rather than use it for continued growth, until later.

Harvest is expected to wrap up in the next week, he added, but sugar processing will continue through the end of February.

In the Big Horn Basin, similar stories can be heard. 

Mark Bjornestad, a Western Sugar Cooperative representative, told the Powell Tribune that, as of Oct. 28, approximately 85 percent of the crop had been harvested. 

Weather has also proved to be detrimental to Big Horn Basin farmers, as wet fields prohibited them from harvesting when they were ready. 

At the same time, he explained that record crop tonnages were also anticipated in the region, with 29.8 to 30 tons per acre anticipated. Sugar content, on the other hand, has dropped in below the 15 to 18 percent, average at only 14.75 percent. 

Both Darnell and Bjornestad recognize that this year could be a little more difficult for producers.

“Sugar prices are low right now,” said Darnell. “The price of sugar has come down just like many other commodities.”

Because beet producers are paid based on the number of pounds of sugar per acre produced, Darnell expects a slightly below average year.

Bjornestad added, “We’re looking forward to wrapping up another successful harvest.”