The good news is an apparent record beet harvest is going reasonably well despite challenging weather.
The bad news is sugar content remains low.
“Tonnage is excellent,” said farmer Lyle Bjornestad. “Sugar is a little down.”
Between 84 and 85 percent of the beets in the area had been harvested by Monday morning, said Mark Bjornestad, Western Sugar Cooperative representative. Lyle and Mark Bjornestad are cousins.
Muddy, wet fields have impeded the digging, but growers had a productive weekend bringing their beets in, Mark Bjornestad said. The harvest is expected to continue into early February, which is normal, Bjornestad said.
It was snowing lightly in Powell Monday morning, but the storm was not slowing harvest operations. Once this storm passes, nicer weather is in the forecast, Bjornestad said.
There is a chance of snow through Thursday, with less than one-half inch of accumulation predicted. Partly cloudy skies were forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
It is too soon to confirm, but it appears beets are running 29.8 to 30 tons per acre, “which would be a record,” Bjornestad said.
However sugar content is just under 14.75 percent, Bjornestad said. Average content is 15 to 18 percent.
He will not know what the price per ton is until they begin selling the sugar, Mark Bjornestad said.
Lyle Bjornestad fears the price will be lower than last year. The last couple years, beets have been running $60 to $70 per ton.
Lyle Bjornestad, his son, Curtis Bjornestad, and son-in-law, John Brence, raised 570 acres of beets east, west and north of Powell this year. They had about 100 acres of beets left to harvest Monday morning, Lyle said.
Western Sugar Cooperative in Lovell receives beets from Big Horn and Park counties. Factory operations in Lovell are going well.
“We’re looking forward to wrapping up another successful harvest,” Mark Bjornestad said.
Precipitation is a mixed blessing. It increases tonnage, but lowers sugar content. Farmers don’t need more precipitation, Lyle Bjornestad said.
Mud has delayed the beet harvest. He wants to finish his beets so he can combine his corn, which is also ready to harvest.
“It’s been an interesting fall,” Lyle Bjornestad said.
Early beet harvest began Sept. 9. Regular harvest began Oct. 2. There is no specific date when the harvest will conclude, but another 10 days of dry weather would be welcomed, farmers said.