Under the allotment system, growers are allowed to dig 1.2 tons of sugar beets per acre under contract to Western Sugar in each seven-day period. Rodriguez said with potentially cold and snowy weather in the forecast, Western Sugar officials allowed …
Growers dig extra sugar beets ahead of predicted cold, snowWith freezing temperatures and snow in the forecast this week, sugar beet growers spent the past few days digging extra beets.Ric Rodriguez, a Heart Mountain beet grower and vice chairman of the Western Sugar Cooperative board of directors, said Monday that cooperative officials allowed growers to dig the next two sections of the allotment, or harvest quota. It's an effort to help growers harvest more beets and keep a steady supply to the factory through the re-haul in case the ground freezes.
Under the allotment system, growers are allowed to dig 1.2 tons of sugar beets per acre under contract to Western Sugar in each seven-day period. Rodriguez said with potentially cold and snowy weather in the forecast, Western Sugar officials allowed a “purge,” which let growers dig the third and fourth rotations in the allotment schedule.
That means beets that were scheduled to be dug next week and the week after already are piled at receiving stations or soon will be, said Rodriguez on Monday.
That puts a two or three-week supply at receiving stations if the Lovell factory can continue running at or near its capacity of 3,000 tons per 24 hours, Rodriguez said. Sugar beets will last a while piled at the receiving stations, but “haven't healed enough to go into long-term storage.”
Being ordered to suspend digging when conditions would otherwise allow growers into the field is hard, Rodriguez said.
“It's stressful, that's for sure,” he said. “It's painful, I know that.”
But beet growers who also have dry beans or alfalfa seed to harvest may use down time on those crops or fall prep work, he said. With more snow and cold weather on the way, it's not a bright outlook.
“If you didn't want to take a little risk, you wouldn't be in this business,” Rodriguez said.
The factory has been running well, although it was down for a couple days with a mechanical problem, he said.
Growers are doing their part by delivering clean sugar beets free of mud, tops and other tare, he said.
“All the growers did a good job getting their tops off,” he said.
Beets are not healing as hoped, he said. Some are starting to grow new tops to replace the frozen ones, and regrowth leaches sugar from the root so sugar content will start to drop.
Beets frozen earlier this month have lasted about a week stored in piles at receiving stations before going bad, he said.
“They just won't store long-term,” he said. “They're still better in the ground now than they are in the pile,” but if the ground freezes that could stall the harvest.
Different forecasts call for varying degrees of bad weather, he said. “After tomorrow it starts to diminish.” Lows in the 20s would be bad enough, but temperatures could dip into the teens, which could freeze the ground, he said.
The National Weather Service on Monday predicted a 50-percent chance of rain or snow on Tuesday with lows in the mid-20s. By Wednesday, that forecast calls for a 30-percent chance of snow and an overnight low of 19 degrees.
But weather forecasts by Intellicast and the Weather Channel call for lows in the mid-20s all week.
Everyone is praying for a long, warm fall without another freeze, he said, noting it will take weeks to get all the beets out under the current allotment.