Western Sugar campaign wrapping up this week

In this Star-Herald file photo, a large pile of beets harvested in fall of 2015 is seen near Western Sugar Cooperative's Scottsbluff factory.

Sugar beet producers have faced one challenge after another this year, the most recent being a hard freeze that has essentially put harvest on pause.

“We’ve had some freeze damage so we’re allowing the beats to heal before we continue full harvest,” Jerry Darnell, vice president of agriculture at Western Sugar, said.

Not allowing them to heal could mean a loss in yield and a mess as the frozen beats thaw and begin leaking juice.

“The best way to let them heal is to leave them in their natural habitat,” Mitchell producer and the president of the Nebraska Sugar beet Growers Association Kendall Busch, said.

Darnell said that crews at Western Sugar will do daily evaluations of beets and when they’re in better shape, harvest will continue.

Warm temperatures this weekend should help move things along, Busch said. Until then, producers are allowed to bring in limited quantities of the crop.

As of mid-week, 35 percent of the sugar beet harvest was completed, with a forecasted yield of about 27 tons per acre, down from the average of 31 tons per acre, Darnell said. The sugar content is 16.5 percent.

Areas that were affected by the Gering-Fort Laramie Canal breach are seeing smaller yields of about 18-25 tons per acre, Darnell said.

“It’s below what we would normally expect from that area,” Darnell said. “It’s still pretty good for not having irrigation water all summer.”

Busch, who’s farm is located in the affected area, said it’s too soon to tell how his operation will come out but he expects his yields to be below normal.

“Hopefully the commodity prices will come up a bit to offset our losses,” said Busch. “It’s been a tough year.”

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Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

Kamie Stephen is a reporter with the Star-Herald. She can be reached at 308-632-9041 or via email at kamie.stephen@starherald.com.

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