Sugarbeet planting progress in early May was all over the board

Sugarbeet planting nearly completed in early May in some states, just underway in others.

A green tractor pulls a sugarbeet planter through the field.
A farmer who grows sugarbeets for Amalgamated Sugar planted sugarbeets near Nampa, Idaho, during 2023 planting.
Contributed / Lance Pitcher

As farmers in most states were wrapping up 2023 planting in early May, farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota were ramping up.

The May 8 Crop Progress report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged sugarbeet planting in the top four states for production — Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho and Michigan — at 41% completed, compared to 56% on the five-year average. But much of that progress has come in the latter two states as the former two continued to lag normal pace.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Amalgamated Sugar, based in Boise, had 90% of their crop in the ground as of May 3, 2023, said Brodie Griffin, Amalgamated Sugar’s vice president of agriculture.

More than 700 farmers grow sugarbeets for the cooperative on 180,000 acres, producing 7 millions annually.

“The recent warm weather has allowed for good emergence in the western growing area, and most growers in the Magic Valley are irrigating to ensure stand development,” Griffin said on May 3.


About 90% of the 74,000 acres of Western Sugar Co-op sugarbeets in the southern region had been planted as of May 3, said Jerry Darnell, southern region vice president of agriculture. Farmers who grow sugarbeets for the cooperative, based in Denver, will plant a total of 112,000 acres.

Soil conditions in the southern region of Western Sugar Co-op needed rain in early May, Darnell said. The southern region is made up of Colorado and Nebraska.

“What we need is a good rainstorm. That would put us in great shape,” he said. Rain was forecast for May 4 and May 5.

Reservoirs were scheduled to open the week of May 8.

Farmers in the northern region of Western Sugar Co-op had nearly completed planting as of May 8, said Mark Bjornestad, senior agriculturalist. Montana acreage was 100% planted and Wyoming acreage was 90% planted, he said. Forty percent of Montana's acres had emerged as of May 8 and 15% of Wyoming's acreage had emerged as of that date.

The forecast for the week include showers, which would be welcomed to improve moisture content.

"It's dry. Any chance of precipitation that is sizable will be helpful," Bjornestad said.

Planting was nearly complete by May 8 at Wyoming Sugar, based in Worland. Farmers will plant a total of about 11,000 acres of sugarbeets for the company.


“Our factory district is probably 99% planted, and our outside regions got started over the weekend, so I would imagine that we would be 100% planted by the middle to end of the week,” said Kadan Huber, Wyoming Sugar agriculturalist.

Several days of rain showers resulted in pretty good moisture conditions, he said.

Further north and east, farmers who grow sugarbeets for Michigan Sugar Co. had made swift progress planting their crop.

A tractor pulls a sugarbeet planter through a field.
Koth Farms, owned by Don and Noah Koth, planted sugarbeets for Michigan Sugar Co. in spring 2023.
Contributed / Cheryl Koth

Farmers had planted about 100,000 or 70% of the cooperative’s 142,000 acres as of May 3, said Elizabeth Taylor, Michigan Sugar agriculture relations and communication manager. Farmers hoped to have the remainder of the sugarbeets in the ground by shortly after mid-May.

The sugarbeets that have emerged were in good condition and moisture was adequate, she said.

In Minnesota and North Dakota farmers had started planting their sugarbeets in late April and hoped to get into full swing the second week of May. The May 8 Crop Progress report put Minnesota farmers at 23% complete, compared to 45% on the five-year average, and North Dakota farmers at 1% complete, compared to 44% on the five-year average.

Farmers were delayed from getting into the field earlier than because of heavy April snows and cold temperatures.

The first sugarbeets American Crystal Sugar Co. farmers planted were in the Moorhead, Minnesota, factory district on May 1, and some were planted the next day in the Crookston, Minnesota, district a couple of days later. American Crystal Sugar also has factory districts in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, Hillsboro, North Dakota, and Drayton, North Dakota.


Joe Hastings, American Crystal Sugar general agronomist, expected the cooperative’s farmers up and down the Red River Valley would begin planting in earnest by the week of May 8 if the rain that was forecast over the preceding weekend didn’t halt their progress.

“The fields are coming around pretty quickly, ” Hastings said on May 3.

Though farmers who grow sugarbeets for American Crystal Sugar started the planting season later than the average long-term date of May 5, it was more than two weeks earlier than the company’s all-time latest date of May 24, 2022, he noted.

Sugarbeet planting in the Northern Plains in 2023 has been delayed by excessive moisture.
Agweek file photo

American Crystal Sugar estimates its 2023 sugarbeet acreage will be 418,000. The company will monitor planting progress to determine if it needs to implement its targeted acreage program, or TAP, Hastings said. Last year, 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.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op in Wahpeton, North Dakota, had about 12,000 acres planted as of May 3, said Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op vice president of agriculture and research.

The cooperative’s farmers will plant a total of 103,000 acres in 2023. Farmers hoped to get one-third of that acreage in the ground by the weekend of May 5, he said.

“We’re sitting in pretty good shape,” Metzger said

Field conditions were good.


“It’s working up nicely. Everything is going into moisture,” Metzger said.

Farther south, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op farmers got underway in early May after being delayed by April snowstorms and rain.

“Right now, things are really busting loose, and we’re really getting going now,” said Todd Geselius, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op vice president of agriculture, on May 3, 2023. That’s about 10 days behind a typical year.

“In a typical year, we would be starting around the middle of April and we would just be finishing up now, the first week in May,” he said. ”It’s still better than last year Last year we didn’t get started until the middle of May, and it was the first week of June before we were done.”

Farmers will plant a total of 117,000 acres for SMBS in 2023.

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.
What To Read Next
Get Local