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Published October 31, 2013, 04:59 PM

Rain, freezing conditions hamper west-central Minn. sugar beet harvest

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

By: Forum News Service ,

RENVILLE, Minn. — A wet autumn and freezing conditions have taken a toll on 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 this week that the cooperative would not accept any additional beets starting at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

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

During the past 14 days, the 17-county growing area experienced four freeze events, with the fourth hard freeze occurring Monday. 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,” said CEO Kelvin Thompsen. “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.”

The cooperative had tried to mitigate the financial impact of the freeze events. It received about 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 about 60 processing days at the facility in Renville, Minn.

Although the cooperative can process a limited amount of sugar beets that have been subjected to frost damage or do not comply with the delivery standards, the cooperative said 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 they should notify their crop insurance company.