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That's progress

REYNOLDS, N.D. -- The first day of the full-scale harvest for American Crystal Sugar Co. was a career high for some farmers in the region, topping off a year in which yields are better than expected for almost every crop.

beet harvest
Sugar beets near Reynolds, N.D., were coming in the high-20s for tons per acre, and sugar content approaching 19 percent - both very good, and despite a relatively dry year. John Schumacher and his cousin Jason Schumacher, were on the harvester and collection cart on Oct. 3 - the first day off full-scale harvest. Mikkel Pates, Agweek

REYNOLDS, N.D. -- The first day of the full-scale harvest for American Crystal Sugar Co. was a career high for some farmers in the region, topping off a year in which yields are better than expected for almost every crop.

Yields are high and commodity prices are higher, largely because of drought conditions elsewhere in the country.

"I think it's the biggest and best crop I've seen in 81 years," says Lyle Schumacher of Grand Forks, N.D., stopping by the sugar beet lifting operation at nearby Reynolds, on day one of the full-scale harvest. Round-the-clock beet harvest started valley-wide on Oct. 3. "Everything -- from wheat to edible beans to soybeans to corn to sugar beets."

Schumacher Farms is headquartered three miles north and one west of Reynolds, N.D.

With the high price projections, the returns could be unparalleled for the 2012 crop as a whole, Schumacher says. "Very seldom do you get a yield and a price both, you know. Sometimes you get a yield and no price. Then you get a price and no yield, so you have nothing to sell. This has been a good year for this area. I don't know how far east or west or north and south it's gone. We happen to be sitting right, here. It's gratifying -- not so much for me, but for the young folks that have taken over."

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Schumacher acknowledges that his generation provided a vital link that made the current generation's prosperity possible, but he emphasizes, "We like to see the young people progress."

John Schumacher, 39, pulled the first shift for his family's full-scale harvest, which started at midnight Oct. 3. The beets go to the Reynolds piler, and ultimately to the Hillsboro, N.D., factory.

"It's going fairly good, considering how dry it is. It actually lifts pretty well," John said, just ahead of a rain and snow event forecast for later in the week. "We could use some moisture. It'd be nice if it'd rain. I don't think it would hold us up very long if it did rain, the ground is so dry and loose." He says the beets are dry and a dash of moisture could help them store better this fall.

John says the beets have been running in the high-20s in tons per acre yield. The sugar content is also outstanding, in the high 18 percent range. If everything goes as it should, this could be a record-setting income year from sugar beets, he acknowledges. "I think the sugar content is higher than anybody's ever seen it, valley wide," he says, adding there are some producers that will have sugar contents more than 20 percent.

"It's a good crop; it's a real good crop, considering how dry it was this summer," John says. "We had it in early. It got in the ground in good condition and it's been in the ground since mid-April, so the beets have been in the ground quite a while."

Besides beets, the Schumachers raise pinto and navy beans, wheat, soybeans and corn. Corn yielded in the 165-bushel-per-acre average, and came in fairly dry. The dry beans were a "good, average" yield -- too dry, but relatively good quality, considering the dryness.

American Crystal had expected to start harvest Oct. 1, but because of heat, started at 12:01 a.m., Oct. 3. The final yield per acre is projected at about 26 tons, says Cory Kritzberger, director of agriculture. "We don't know where we're at" on the total crop yield, Kritzberger says. Sugar content was coming in "excellent."

Wahpeton, N.D.-based Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative is projecting about a 27-ton yield, and started its full-scale harvest at 2 a.m., also on Oct. 3.

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Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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