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Wet autumn, freezing conditions take toll on sugar beet harvest

RENVILLE — A wet autumn and freezing conditions have taken a toll on this this year’s sugar beet harvest

Sugar beet growers in west central Minnesota will not harvest an estimated 25,000 acres, or about 21 percent of the 118,000 acres planted for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, according to the Cooperative.

The Cooperative’s shareholders were notified earlier this week that the it would not accept any additional beets starting at 3 a.m. on Tuesday.

In a news release issued Thursday, the Cooperative said that the cooperative’s 500 shareholder farmers had worked extremely hard to harvest this year’s crop, but rain and freezing conditions adversely impacted the harvest work.

During the past 14 days, the 17-county growing area experienced four freeze events, with the fourth, hard freeze event occurring on October 28. It resulted in damage that precluded the cooperative from accepting the beets for storage and processing, the Cooperative reported.

“I strongly believe that this decision is in the best interests of the Cooperative. We have done what we can to accept as many beets as possible, but accepting additional beets would put the Cooperative at an unacceptable risk,” said Kelvin Thompsen, CEO of the Cooperative

The Cooperative had attempted to mitigate the financial impact of the freeze events. It received approximately 800,000 tons of the damaged beets through a combination of aggressive scalping (cutting off the exposed portion of the beet while the beet is still in the ground) to remove as much of the damage as possible. Also, the damaged beets were segregated from the other beets at the pile sites in the growing region.

Damaged beets do not store well. It is not possible for the Cooperative to process more than the 800,000 tons of damaged beets, which represents approximately 60 processing days at the facility in Renville.

Although the Cooperative can process a limited amount of sugarbeets that have been subjected to frost damage and or do not comply with the delivery standards, receiving any more damaged beets posed a risk beyond that which can be managed within the operating parameters of the factory, the environmental permits issued to the Cooperative, and applicable laws and regulations.

The Cooperative advised growers with undelivered beets that those growers should notify their crop insurance company.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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