Glen Reed, a Cody-area beet grower and a member of the local sugar beet grower association's board of directors, said the average projected grower payment for the 2008 crop is $1,278 per acre. That averages $52.08 per ton delivered to the …
Times are sweet for sugar beet farmers.In fact, some would say sweeter than ever, with a record payment for 2008 and a record yield for the Lovell factory area of the Western Sugar Cooperative.
Glen Reed, a Cody-area beet grower and a member of the local sugar beet grower association's board of directors, said the average projected grower payment for the 2008 crop is $1,278 per acre. That averages $52.08 per ton delivered to the factory.
Sugar beet producers will receive an extra payment this month, included in the total, which begins at $6.02 per ton for 16.51 percent sugar. Most local beets had higher sugar content.
“That's a substantial extra payment, six bucks a ton,” said Reed. With sugar content generally in the 17-percent range in the Lovell factory area, “it's gong to mean more than $6 a ton.”
The Lovell factory averaged 24.54 tons per acre with adjusted sugar content of 17.31 percent.
Reed attributed much of the year's success to Roundup Ready beets, grown commercially in widespread areas for the first time in 2008.
And this year should go just as well, he thinks.
“We're really optimistic and it's looking really good,” he said. “We're excited about 2009.”
Roundup Ready sugar beets have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate, the ingredient in the Monsanto-produced herbicide Roundup.
“That was a huge plus in 2008,” Reed said of the new beet varieties. Planting Roundup Ready beet seed saves a lot on labor, fuel costs and equipment wear. In his operation, he was able to stop cultivating.
“We used to cultivate at least twice,” he said.
Reed said spraying Roundup on the beets a couple times a season means spending only one-fourth to one-third the time it took to apply several weed-killing chemicals several times to conventional beets.
“It's a time issue for me,” Reed said. Previously, spraying herbicide on beets “was one guy's job for almost a month.”
Weather also can play a huge role in beet production. It was cold during spring 2008 planting, and some growers were delayed by a mid-harvest snowstorm.
“For them to come out outstanding in a mediocre year at best” is great news, Reed said.
“That's why we've always liked sugar beets, because they have the highest potential,” Reed said of his family farm. Reed and his brother bought out their dad about 10 years ago, continuing the family line. “They have the most potential of any crop around here to make you money.”
Any crop can have problems, he said, caused by disease, weather or other problems, and they are not always predictable, such as the hailstorm that wiped out his barley a couple years ago. But he thinks the future is bright for sugar beets.
“It's a great time to get in. Shares are cheap and prices are good,” he said.
“Once we get a couple good years like we had this past year,” Reed said, “people are going to want to grow beets, and share value is going to go up.”
Western Sugar growers this year will receive back the “unit retain” money they paid to the co-op in 2002. Reed said this money pooled by the growers helps the co-op cash flow, and in the early days satisfied bank-loan finance requirements.
These payments are separate from the 2008 crop payment and mean even more cash in pocket for growers, Reed said.
“So that's good news,” he said. “It means the co-op's strong, in a good financial position. As growers, we are the co-op.
Being able to revolve those unit retains, it's that we've got good growers and good management of the crop.”