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Red River Valley sugar beet pre-pile starts soon

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- Some beet growers in the southern Red River Valley have started their sugar beet pre-pile harvest and the region's biggest co-op is implementing a new plan to deal with excessively large crops.

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Mikkel Pates, Agweek

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Some beet growers in the southern Red River Valley have started their sugar beet pre-pile harvest and the region’s biggest co-op is implementing a new plan to deal with excessively large crops.

Brian Ingulsrud, vice president of agriculture for American Crystal Sugar Co., says pre-pile will start Aug. 17, but could be delayed until Aug. 18, if hot weather continues. Factories are set to start processing on Aug. 20.

Ingulsrud confirmed that on Aug. 13, American Crystal released the names of growers who might not have to harvest certain acres if the company has too many beets to comfortably process through the spring.

In American Crystal’s new Targeted Acre Program, shareholders in July offered bids in which they'd receive payments for destroying beets. The TAP program accepted bids for 15,000 acres, or about 4 percent of about 400,000 acres to be harvested. The co-op harvested about 420,000 acres in 2014.

Ingulsrud declines to say how many acres were bid for TAP, or how much farmers are being paid. He says TAP acres would be paid only if the beets are destroyed.

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American Crystal is projecting a yield of 27 tons per acre, which makes for about 10.75 million tons. He acknowledges that "30 tons is possible," but is unlikely.

"If we got a crop of that size we'd have to leave some beets in the field," he says.

Before the TAP program, American Crystal would ask all growers to identify 5 to 10 percent of their acres as a contingency for possible destruction, if the crop looked excessively large. The company would wait until half of the crop was harvested to decide whether to implement the across-the-board reduction. Shareholders who made quick progress on their harvest would face labor scheduling problems if the decision was delayed.

Earliest ever Meanwhile, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative started its pre-pile harvest on Aug. 12, the earliest ever, says Tom Knudsen, vice president of agriculture. The previous record Aug. 15 in 2012.

Minn-Dak doesn’t release a specific yield projection, but Knudsen acknowledges that 25 tons per acre is possible. He says reports from the field were "nill" about the size or quality of the beets. The co-op planted 115,000 acres, up from the 110,000 acres last year.

He says if the yield reaches 27 tons, "we'd hit the twilight zone" for processing past the mid-May comfort zone.

Knudsen says hot weather won't interrupt a pre-pile harvest because farmers bring in only enough beets to be processed quickly, while the full-scale or "stockpile" harvest that starts about Oct. 1 would stop with hot weather. He says this is like a “California harvest,” in which beets were processed even when temperatures exceed 100 degrees.

Related Topics: CROPSAGRIBUSINESS
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