Montana Growers Get Help from Governor

Published online: Oct 11, 2019 News Braedon Cain
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Source: KULR-8 News

The weather has been a challenge for drivers and farmers in Montana. So much so, that the sugar beet harvest must now happen faster than in past years.

Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order on Wednesday allowing increased weight limitations on transportation vehicles. The idea is to allow more beets per truck which will get the harvest to processing facilities much faster.

Montana farmers and ranchers got dealt a bad hand during this harvesting season with early winter storms. 

The governors executive order will temporarily increase gross vehicle weight tolerance for sugar beet farm vehicles. The increase pushes weight limits from twenty percent per axle to thirty percent through November 30th.

But the question that remains is just how much did the early snowfall this past week affect the sugar beet harvest season?

"I talked to a few people and they said right now they don't want to have the sun out. There's a layer of snow on top of the dirt and that's going to act as an insulator and at the experiment station they were saying mid to upper thirties in the few first inches of dirt so if they can keep the snow on they can keep that heat in the ground, the sugar beets won't freeze. But if it gets any colder or if that snow goes away and it gets cold at night all that heat escapes and then we have a problem because all the plants in the ground freeze and that's going to wreck all the sugar, we can't use it," said Northern Ag Network's Leif Bakken.

Bakken added, "We should be seeing sugar beets really start moving into town now. We see an early harvest about mid September to late September and then about this time of year is when they're ready and we'll see this all the way through the end of November. We really start to see things pick up at the end of October and into November."

Sugar beets were not the only crop affected by these early winter storms, the agriculture community is also concerned about barley and spring wheat crops.

Ranchers are also concerned about potential diseases infesting unharvested crops. This could make livestock feeding in these areas sick.