Eastern Montana Experiences Challenging Weather
Weather unusually cold and wet has damaged the eastern Montana sugar-beet crop, some of it left frozen in the ground because harvest equipment cannot cross the wet fields.
Heavy rain since mid-September and four consecutive nights of temperatures in the teens or lower jeopardized almost 400,000 tons of beets, said Tony Zitterkopf, agriculture manager for Western Sugar Cooperative.
It operates Billings and Lovell, Wyo., refineries that have been accepting frost-damaged beets for processing. Rapid handling is essential because the beets deteriorate quickly as they warm, Zitterkopf said.
Greg Lackman of Hysham said beets remain to be dug on nearly one-third of the 880 acres that he and his brother farm.
Lackman, president of the Mountain States Beet Growers Association, said the harvest is turning out to be the most difficult since he began farming in 1980. He said he carries crop insurance, as do about half of the association's members.
The situation is somewhat brighter in the Sidney area, where agronomist Kerry Rasmussen of Sidney Sugars said the crop was 97 percent harvested before the freeze hit. Beets struck by the frost were dug and taken to the refinery immediately.
Frost nipped the crop in the Worland, Wyo., area, said Cal Jones, chief executive for Worland Sugar Co.