What a difference a year makes.
Last year, area farmers were counting their losses after an early October freeze devastated the sugar beet crop.
This year, those farmers are thankful for a successful harvest as beets are safely out of the ground, piled, dusted with a fresh snow and awaiting processing.
The harvest is ending on a good note, but it didn't start out that way.
In May, severe spring weather threatened the crop, forcing some farmers to replant.
On the heels of 2009's devastating year, it was a discouraging start. As one Heart Mountain farmer said last spring: “I hope it's not a preamble to the fall.”
Thankfully, the sour beginning didn't ruin what ended up to be a season of sweet success.
Though farmers can breathe a sigh of relief at the close of this harvest, the sugar beet industry remains in limbo. The future of sugar beet production is far from secure.
A federal judge issued an order in August halting the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets until the U.S. Department of Agriculture completes an environmental impact study. For local farmers and those across America who have come to depend on Roundup Ready seed, the ruling could have significant, widespread impact.
However, a USDA plan announced recently may partially lift the ban on the genetically-modified seed, though it's unclear whether it will come in time for next year's beet crop.
If USDA's efforts are unsuccessful and the ban stands, its effect could be catastrophic. Park County ranks No. 1 in the state for sugar beet production, and the vast majority of those beets are of the Roundup Ready variety.
To completely halt its production could cripple the farming industry, and by extension, the local economy.
We hope Powell farmers can enjoy many more successful beet seasons in future years — but for now, that rests in the courts' hands.