Cold, snowy weather delays sugarbeet planting in many areas of the United States

Just how late planting will be depends on how quickly the snow melts, whether more falls in the next couple of weeks and if spring rain exacerbates the wet conditions.

sugarbeet field ndsu.jpeg
Sugarbeet planting across the U.S. northern tier is delayed because of cold, wet weather.
Contributed / North Dakota State University

It is a given that sugarbeet planting across the northern tier of the United States will be delayed in 2023, as fields remained snow covered 10 days into April.

Just how late planting will be depends on how quickly the snow melts, whether more falls in the next couple of weeks and if spring rain exacerbates the wet conditions. For example, there was potential for heavy rains to fall in mid-April in eastern North Dakota, according to the Grand Forks, North Dakota, National Weather Service office.

After an unseasonably cold and wet March resulted in more snow on the ground at the end of the month than there was at the beginning, temperatures in states across the northern finally warmed at the end of the first week in April. That, combined with several consecutive days of sunny weather, kick-started the snowmelt, and patches of bare ground began to appear in sheltered areas.

Fields, however, remained covered with several inches to a few feet deep. Still, there are signs that spring planting season will get under way, eventually.

Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op in Wahpeton, North Dakota, scheduled farmers to pick up their sugarbeet seed the week of April 10, 2023, said Mike Metzger, vice president agriculture and research.


However, Metgzer didn’t hazard a guess on when the crop would be going in the ground.

“Absolutely no clue,” Metzger said on April 10. Some fields in the cooperative’s growing area still were covered by 2 feet of snow, despite having consecutive days of warm temperatures and sun, he said.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Minn-Dak ideally should have their sugarbeet crop going into the ground by May 12 for optimal yields, he said.

Minn-Dak plans to have its farmers plant a total of about 103,000 acres of sugarbeets this year, Metzger said. There were no plans as of April 10, 2023, to activate the extra acres incentive program, instituted in 2022. That program allowed farmers to increase their acreage because weather conditions delayed planting,

Further north, farmers who grow sugarbeets for American Crystal Sugar Co. typically get started between April 11 and the first week in May, said Joe Hastings, the cooperative’s general agronomist.

The average long-term planting date is May 5, he said. Yield loss begins to occur when planting is delayed to mid- to late May.

The cooperative plans to have a total of 418,000 sugarbeet acres this year. American Crystal Sugar, based in Moorhead, Minnesota, has factories in the North Dakota cities of Drayton and Hillsboro and Minnesota cities of Crookston, Moorhead and East Grand Forks.

The targeted acres program is an option if planting gets delayed, but “we’re not at that point, yet,” Hastings said on April 10. In 2022, American Crystal Sugar released 52,000 additional acres through the program. Farmers who sign up for TAP grow additional acres if the company determines it needs to increase them because of concerns that production could be reduced.


At Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op in Renville, there still was a good amount of snow on the ground, April 10, so it will be unlikely if farmers will get into the field by April 25, the cooperative’s long-term average planting date.

“We will probably get into the ground by early May,” said Tom Geselius, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op vice president of agriculture.

Farmers will plant a total of 117,000 acres of sugarbeets, he said. In 2022, the cooperative reduced its acreage to about 110,000. The reduction followed a record crop that averaged 36.5 tons per acre, which was 6.2 tons per acre more than the previous record of 30.3 tons set in 2017.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Michigan Sugar Co., based in Bay City, planned to start planting the week of April 10, 2023, weather permitting. Farmers who raise sugarbeets for the company will plant a total of 142,000 acres, 6,000 fewer than last year, said Elizabeth Taylor, Michigan Sugar Co. agriculture relations and communications manager. Taylor declined to say why the company’s board decided to reduce the number of acres this year. The 2023 and 2022 acreage are both smaller than past years.

The Michigan Sugar website said that the cooperative’s 900 farmers grow sugarbeets on 160,000 acres.

In the northwestern United States, the weather in sugarbeet areas of Idaho, like in North Dakota and Minnesota, was cold, and there was more snow in March than is typical.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Amalgamated Sugar Co., based in Boise, Idaho, had planted slightly more than 1,000 acres of their crop as of April 6, 2023. The co-op’s farmers typically have 20,000 acres planted by that date, said Jessica Anderson. Amalgamated Sugar public affairs manager.

“We’re probably a week to 10 days behind schedule,” she said.


Doug Evans, Snake River Sugarbeet Growers Association president, expected Idaho’s sugarbeet planting to get in full swing the week of April 10, 2023. The Blackfoot, Idaho, farmer hoped to start planting his crop the following week.

“We’re kind of the last area in the sugarbeet company to get going,” Evans said.

“We had an unusually cold winter, and it stayed cold a lot longer than it normally does,” he said.

“The soil temperature is not where we need it to be,” Anderson said.

In the southern region of Western Sugar, farmers in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming plan to plant 74,000 acres of sugarbeets in 2023, said Jerry Darnell, Western Sugar South Region vice president of agriculture. Total acreage for the cooperative, which includes the cooperatives in the Northern Region in Montana, is 112,000, he said.

The Southern Region’s farmers had about 500 acres of sugarbeets planted by April 7, 2023,

Sugarbeet planting in the southern region was expected to get underway in earnest the week of April 10, 2023, he said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department pegged total 2023 U.S. sugarbeet acreage at 1.1 million, 4% less than in 2022 in its March 31, 2023, planting intentions report.


That number would be the lowest U.S. acreage since 2008. The reduction in acreage is at least in part the result of the impending closure of Sidney (Montana) Sugars Co. The Sidney Sugar Co. factory, a wholly owned subsidiary of American Crystal Sugar, is slated to close on April 28, 2023. American Crystal Sugar announced in February it was going to close the factory because North Dakota and Minnesota farmers who grew sugarbeets for the plant had reduced their acreage in recent years.

The Montana Dakota Beet Growers Association said the reason its members had reduced their acreage was that A merican Crystal Sugar had offered them low contract prices .

This year, North Dakota sugarbeet acreage is estimated at 214,000 acres, down 37,000 or 15% from 251,000 in 2022, USDA said. Montana acreage is pegged at 24,000, which is 29% or 9,600 fewer than last year.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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