‘Sugar beets’ car, in the pipeline

‘Sugar beets’ car, in the pipeline

Business Report / 10 August 2017, 06:30am / Reuters

EINDHOVEN – Dutch students have invented a bio-degradable car made of resin derived from from sugar beets and covered with sheets of Dutch-grown flax.

The car can travel at 80 km/h with the capacity to carry four people. Investors to this project say it could be the next step in environmentally friendly motoring.

One of the developers from the TU/Ecomotive team at the Eindhoven University of Technology,  Yanic van Riel says “Only the wheels and suspension systems are not yet of bio-based materials”.

Team leader, Noud van de Gevel said the initial model has not yet passed crash tests, because the material “will not bend like metal, but break”.

This university students initiative will contribute towards the demands for auto companies to reduce air pollution and tackle climate change by improvising for alternative designs.

Later this year, the TU/Ecomotive team plans to test drive Lina, once given the green light by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority.



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Sugar Companies to Launch GMO Education Campaign

Sugar Companies to Launch GMO Education Campaign

By: Sean Ellis
Capital Press

Published on August 2, 2017 11:46AM

Two of the nation’s sugar companies will launch a $4 million online campaign this fall aimed at educating consumers about GMO crops and changing their perceptions of the technology

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Genetically modified crops such as sugar beets and corn have been a godsend to the farmers who grow them, an Idaho farmer and biotechnology expert told members of the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture July 27.

But, he added, the majority of consumers don’t understand the science behind genetically engineered crops and farmers who use the technology are losing the online debate about “GMOs,” as the crops are commonly called.

To try to change consumers’ understanding and perception of GMO crops, the nation’s sugar beet industry is preparing a $4 million online campaign that will launch this fall.

“We are losing the online debate,” Idaho sugar beet farmer Duane Grant told WASDA members. “We can’t just sit back and let this evolve independently. We have to engage.”

The campaign, “A Fresh Look,” is primarily being financed by Amalgamated Sugar Co. and Western Sugar Co. and will target three large urban areas.

If successful — it will be evaluated after nine months — it will be expanded into a $30 million national campaign, said Grant, chairman of the Snake River Sugar Cooperative’s board of directors.

Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically engineered to withstand applications of the glyphosate herbicide, enjoy 100 percent adoption among Amalgamated growers and save them about $22 million per year, he said.

Because the GMO beets allow growers to use fewer herbicides, the plants are disturbed less and they face much less competition from weed pressure, which has translated into higher yields, Grant said.

Since GMO corn was introduced in the 1990s, he said, U.S. corn acres have increased from just under 60 million to 90 million, while acres of wheat, which is not genetically modified, have dropped from about 60 million to 45 million in 2017, which is the lowest acreage since records began in 1919.

The wheat “industry is struggling because returns don’t match the returns in crops grown with biotechnology,” Grant said

“The value of that technology to a farmer is intuitive,” he said.

But, he added, it’s not intuitive to many consumers and that’s the reason for the “A Fresh Look” campaign, which will target moms who are deemed to be decision makers and engage them online.

“We are going to talk to them in their language,” Grant said. “All they care about is, is this good for the planet and will it be good for my kids.”

The campaign will introduce those consumers to some of the 25 environmental benefits of GMO crops that the sugar beet industry documented and submitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015, he said.

The use of fewer pesticides and herbicides in GMO crops will be highlighted, Grant said. “We’re going to own that one.”

Doug Jones, executive director of Growers for Biotechnology, which promotes the acceptance of agricultural biotechnology, applauded the campaign.

“The public’s understanding of biotechnology is very low and often misguided,” he said. The campaign won’t change everyone’s mind, but “if they can do something to educate the public, I’m all for it.”


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Analyst Sees Positive Signs for U.S. Sugar Market

Analyst Sees Positive Signs for U.S. Sugar Market

By: John O’Connell
Capital Press

Published on July 5, 2017 10:19AM
Republished with permission

NAMPA, Idaho — U.S. sugar beet growers are poised for a profitable year despite expectations of a large global sugar crop, market analysts with Rabobank predict.

A new report from the Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory Group estimates the world’s sugar growers will overproduce by 2.7 million metric tons in the current crop year.

But U.S. sugar prices should avoid downward pressure from the expected international glut, thanks largely to a recently renegotiated agreement addressing the dumping of subsidized Mexican sugar into the country, explained RaboResearch sugar analyst Stephen Nicholson.

Nicholson said the outlook is for increased production in major sugar-producing countries — including Brazil, India and Thailand.

Domestically, however, USDA estimates U.S. sugar farmers cut their beet acres by 2.7 percent and their cane acres by 3.4 percent. Adverse growing conditions in U.S. sugar production areas should also reduce sugar output, Nicholson said. He said the weather has been especially dry in Minnesota, Montana and the Dakotas, and a turn to humid weather could raise disease pressure.

Duane Grant, chairman of the board with Idaho-based Snake River Sugar Cooperative, said his company’s growers planted late in Vale, Ore., Weiser, Idaho, and pockets of the Magic Valley, due to heavy snowpack and storms.

“Probably 10 to 15 percent of the company’s fields were planted in challenging conditions,” Grant said, adding delayed planting also affects how plants take up nitrogen and produce sugar content. “We’re probably not looking at record yields, but I think it will be a decent crop.”

Pest pressure could also pose challenges for growers in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, where Amalgamated crop consultant Kevin Fouldger has reported finding loopers, armyworms and false celery leaftier.

Nicholson said there’s also been a recent narrowing of a price gap that developed in the U.S. between sugar cane and sugar beets, which some buyers have avoided because most of the crop comes from seed produced with biotechnology.

The five-year average ending with the 2016 crop year shows a 0.3 percent reduction in beet sugar deliveries for human use and a 3.1 percent increase in cane deliveries, Nicholson said. More recently, he said beet sugar got cheap enough that buyers purchased most of the remaining 2016 crop inventories from beet processing companies. Furthermore, prices have risen about 1.5 cents since the early June updated agreement with Mexico, now at 32 cents per pound for refined beet sugar delivered to the Midwest.

U.S. sugar policy places quotas on sugar imports allowed from specific countries. The recently renegotiated agreement with Mexico raises minimum prices for Mexican sugar sold into the U.S., increases the percentage of Mexican exports that must be sent unrefined to supply U.S. refineries and adjusts the purity standard at which sugar is considered to be refined.

Nicholson said U.S. sugar policy should keep the domestic market “well insulated” from the global market.

“I am cautiously optimistic U.S. prices of sugar will continue to move up, particularly on the beet side, because they have been down so low, and we’ve had a reduction in acreage,” Nicholson said.

Read full article HERE

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New Emulsifier from Sugar Beets

New Emulsifier from Sugar Beets

Author: ChemistryViews.org
Published: 14 May 2017
Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
Source / Publisher: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry/ACS Publications
Associated Societies: American Chemical Society (ACS), USA

Published with permission.

Emulsifiers are used in many food products such as dairy products or sauces. They keep water- and oil-based ingredients from separating and improve the texture of the products. Natural emulsifiers, e.g., polysaccharides or phospholipids, are preferred for the use in foods.

Jochen Weiss, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, and colleagues have evaluated the properties of sugar beet extract as a natural emulsifier for food applications.


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Boise’s Amalgamated Sets Sugar-Making Record, Credits Genetic Modification, Breeding

Boise’s Amalgamated Sets Sugar-Making Record, Credits Genetic Modification, Breeding

By: Zach Kyle, Idaho Statesman
April 25, 2017

Amalgamated Sugar Co, the company that buys all of the sugar beets grown in Idaho, has just finished processing the 2016 crop and says it will result in a record 2.34 billion pounds of sugar.

The growers harvested a record 7.2 million tons despite harvesting 2,000 fewer acres than in 2015, according to the University of Idaho. Idaho sugar beet revenues are estimated to increase by 2% from a year earlier.

Amalgamated President and CEO John McCreedy attributed the record production to seeds that are genetically modified to resist pesticides, improved breeding techniques that have increased beets’ sugar content, and improving factory efficiency.

Read full article HERE

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Amalgamated Sugar Factory Celebrates 75 Years

Amalgamated Sugar Factory Celebrates 75 Years

By Sean Bunce, Idaho Press-Tribune
March 25, 2017

NAMPA – You can see it from almost anywhere in Nampa – the tall, white factory standing out in the open skyline, steam pouring from pipes that sprout in all directions. Within a five-mile radius, you can probably smell it too, as freshly cut sugar beets fill the surrounding area with the scent of peanut butter.

For Jessica McAnally, spokeswoman for the Amalgamated Sugar Company’s Nampa factory, the smell often reminds her of harvest time and helping her father out on the farm as a kid.

“A lot of the people that have a strong history with the factory feel the same way,” McAnally said.

In April, the Amalgamated Sugar Company’s Factory will celebrate 75 years in Nampa.

Read entire article, including photo slide show HERE

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Food For Thought: Chatham-Kent has 84 farmers who grow beets on 10,000 acres

Food For Thought: Chatham-Kent has 84 farmers who grow beets on 10,000 acres

By Kim Cooper, Special to The Chatham Daily News

What do you get when you have 11 University of Guelph agriculture students, one old guy (me) in a van heading to Croswell, Mich. to tour the Michigan Sugar Company facility? A great time for sure!

I was invited by Paige Handsor to accompany this young and brilliant group in October. Paige’s father Harvey is one of the sugar beet growers in Chatham-Kent, and I’m thankful she was able to arrange this tour.

I had never been to the Croswell facility. This is the destination of all our Chatham-Kent-grown sugar beets. Did you know that Chatham-Kent is Canada’s second largest producer of sugar beets?

The tour was amazing and very informative. We learned so much from Keith Kalso, agriculture department manager and his assistant Glenn Martus, from Michigan Sugar. They in turn were quite impressed with the many detailed questions that came from our students.

The Michigan Sugar Company has six facilities, which includes Bay City, Sebwaing, Caro, Croswell, Carrollton (storage and value added processing), as well as AmCane Sugar Company in Taylor, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio. AmCane receives world cane sugar and melts and processes value-added products as well as selling liquid sugar.

It’s been almost 20 years since farmers brought sugar beet production back to Ontario. Since then, the industry has expanded from 268 acres and nine growers to approximately 84 growers producing a crop on over 10,000 acres.

The Croswell facility slices over 80 semi truckloads of sugar beets every day during the harvest period which runs from late August to late March. From these beets, the plant produces 1.2 million tons of sugar every day. That is a lot of sugar beets and a lot of sugar!

Michigan Sugar Company is a co-operative which is owned by growers who have contracts to grow sugar beets for them. So each of our Chatham-Kent growers is a co-operative member and they pay a share in the company to grow the sugar beets.

Sugar is derived basically from sugar canes and from sugar beets. There is generally 18 per cent sugar yield from sugar beets and 14 per cent sugar yield from sugar cane. Our growers are paid on recoverable white sugar per ton of sugar beets.

The price of sugar in the U.S. is very complex and is regulated by the U.S. Farm Bill. The U.S. has to import large quantities of sugar in order to meet the increasing demands.

Here in Canada, all our imported sugar comes from sugar cane. There is a very high tariff on sugar which comes from sugar beets. But there is no tariff on sugar coming from sugar cane. The reasons are political and a strong lobby from the current Canadian importers of sugar.

In 1995, Michigan Sugar Company came to Ontario looking for more acres as some of their U.S. growers were cutting back on growing sugar beets. Since that time, the company has been very pleased with the quality of the sugar beets they receive from Ontario, which are grown in Chatham-Kent and also in Lambton County.

When our growers started back with sugar beets in 1995, they delivered their crop to a central piling yard in the north Chatham area and then it was shipped to Michigan for processing.

There is a new on-farm delivery system that was developed here in Chatham-Kent. During the sugar beet harvest, you may have seen piles of sugar beets by the roadside, which is then loaded onto semi-trucks by an innovative ‘mouse’ conveyor system and then sent to Michigan. The majority of our sugar beets are still sent to the central piling yard, where they are further transported to Michigan.

Today, new sugar beet innovations involve looking beyond sugar production at new market opportunities like ethanol to help growers continue to expand.

— — —

Think about this – With God, there is hope even in the most hopeless situation.

Just some food for thought.

Here in Chatham-Kent ‘WE GROW FOR THE WORLD’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at www.wegrowfortheworld.com

Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 40 years. He can be reached at: kim.e.cooper@gmail.com

Read Full Story HERE

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UNL studying whether char from sugarbeet plants will improve soil

UNL studying whether char from sugarbeet plants will improve soil

By: Midwest Producer and University of Nebraska-Lincoln
November 23, 2016 8:00 am, published with permission

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. — Scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have begun a multi-year study into whether high-carbon char, a fine, powdery coal dust left over from the processing of sugarbeets, will improve the soil if applied to farmers’ fields.

Western Sugar Cooperative produces 35,000 tons of char each year as a byproduct at its sugar manufacturing plant in Scottsbluff. Western Sugar has plants and other storage and delivery facilities for sugarbeets in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana.

Researchers from UNL’s Panhandle Research and Extension Center and also the Lincoln campus of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources are beginning a three-year study in which they will apply high-carbon char to several research plots near Scottsbluff. The char will be applied once at several different rates (ranging from 0 up to 25 tons per acre), incorporated into the soil, and crops will be planted in a four-year rotation that includes sugarbeets, corn and dry edible beans.

The research team will measure crop yields as well as changes in the soil physical properties (infiltration, crusting, water holding capacity, density, color), and chemical properties (carbon, pH, salinity and soil nutrient levels).

The potential soil-quality benefits include an increase in organic matter and soil carbon. Higher concentrations of carbon in the soil reduce crusting, rapid soil-surface drying and compaction, and improve soil structure, water infiltration, water-holding capacity, and microbial activity. Decades of crop production have depleted organic matter and soil carbon from many fields in western Nebraska, according to Gary Hergert, retired soils specialist at the Panhandle Center, who is advising the research.

The project has the potential turn into a long-term effort involving generations of scientists, much like the adjacent Knorr-Holden corn plots, established 114 years ago in 1912.

It is one of a very few, and possibly the only, large field-plot-scale project in the United States to study the effects of biochar, according to Hergert.

For Hergert, the biochar project came about as the result of a convergence of several factors. Several years ago he did research into treating soil with another Western Sugar byproduct, precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC for short).

PCC is lime left over from the process of extracting pure sugar crystals from the raw juice removed from sugarbeets. In the earlier project, Hergert and other scientists at the Panhandle Center applied PCC to 30 fields in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming. The PCC added some nutrients but did not have a significant positive effect on soils. It also did not have any negative effects on the soil or crops.

Plots are still being monitored to see if the PCC helps reduce Aphanomyces, a sugarbeet disease. Research in other areas has shown a reduction in this disease.

But another byproduct produced at Western Sugar factories is high-carbon char. According to Hergert, the plants at Scottsbluff and Fort Morgan, Colo., generate 35,000 tons per year of the sooty powder from coal that is burned incompletely to heat the lime for the sugar-refining process.

Char is carbon-based, and numerous research papers show that carbon can be used to enhance soils, Hergert said. Additionally, charcoal has been used to improve soils in the Amazon River basin in South America for 2,500 years or more. The natives of the region would create charcoal and incorporate it into small plots of land.

Coincidentally, Hergert had been hearing about biochar and its potential for several years at agronomic society meetings.

Research into biofuel alternatives to ethanol had been on the increase since growth in ethanol was capped in the new Renewable Fuel Standard by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). The new Renewable Fuel Standard capped production of corn ethanol, but called for increases in other types of biofuels that had a greater reduction in greenhouse gases. Hergert said this led to the expectation that other biofuel sources, such as cellulosic materials like irrigated grasses, would grow in importance.

One potential ethanol addition is second-generation biofuels created by pyrolysis, the heating of cellulosic substances to create an oil-like substance. Biochar is a leftover remain of pyrolysis. Research conducted elsewhere on its agronomic effects has been on small-scale, greenhouse-size plots, due to lack of federal funding and congressional follow-through that would support second-generation biofuels, according to Hergert.

To date there are no commercial-scale pyrolysis plants in the United Sates. Little, if any, of the research has been conducted on field plots.

But there are large piles of char, which is very similar to the biochar, near the region’s beet sugar refineries. And there are field plots at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. And now, thanks to funding from the Western Sugar Cooperative Research Committee, there is a multi-year project to see if char applications will benefit the soil.


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Sweet Deal – Brett Petersen earns FFA American Star

Sweet Deal – Brett Petersen earns FFA American Star

November 25, 2016 6:30 am


Brett Petersen, Murdock, checks his phone before heading out to complete fieldwork at Petersen Farms Inc.

Brett Petersen, Murdock, checks his phone before heading out to complete fieldwork at Petersen Farms Inc.

MURDOCK, Minn. – A sugarbeet farmer from the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (KMS) School District has earned one of the top awards from the National FFA Organization – the American Star.

Brett Petersen, 21, recently returned from the National FFA Convention where he received the American Star in Agricultural Placement.

The American Star Awards represent the best among thousands of American FFA Degree recipients.

Each state FFA association recommends four American Star Award candidates – one for each of four award areas.

The National FFA Organization selects four finalists per award area, who are contacted in August. Following review of their materials and a 20-minute interview at the National FFA Convention, four winners are selected each year.

Other winners include: Tyler Schnaithman, Garber, Okla., American Star Farmer; Shane Mueller, Garretson, S.D., Agribusiness; and Elizabeth Renner, Crooks, S.D., Agriscience.

Each award has slightly different criteria. The Ag Placement American Star recognizes the member with the best placement Supervised Ag Experience (SAE) and proven leadership skills. The member’s placement experience may include paid labor hours or unpaid labor hours.

Brett was hired by his family’s farming operation, Petersen Farms Inc., when he was in the sixth grade. Starting by sweeping floors and putting away tools, he quickly proved able to handle more responsibilities.

By ninth grade, he became the primary operator of the farm’s sugarbeet conveyor. He also learned about preventative maintenance as well as how to repair equipment.

By 11th and 12th grade, he was handling all jobs associated with sugarbeet production and had also invested in his own shares in the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative.

Since high school, Brett has earned his pilot’s license to investigate crops from above. He also attended Ridgewater Community College for Farm Operations and Management, and is currently studying Ag Business.

“I decided to study both so that I’ve got options,” he said.

He attributes much of his success to FFA.

“I started in FFA in seventh grade,” he said. “My ag teacher, Christa Williamson, was very progressive in getting younger kids involved.

“Christa stays very involved and pushes the students to be their best. She is very dedicated to her job and the students, and seeing their success,” he added.

Brett served as an FFA officer with the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg chapter from ninth through 12th grade, and served on the regional officer team too.

“I’ve been very active throughout my whole FFA career doing Career Development Events, helping with service projects. You name it, I was probably at it during high school,” he said. “I was in baseball in the spring, but FFA always came first for me.”

Beginning his Supervised Ag Experience in seventh grade, Petersen kept detailed proficiency records that helped him document his employment for nine years.

His parents, Kyle and Paula Petersen, have helped him develop goals as an employee and farmer-owner.

“They gave me a great opportunity to prove myself,” he said.

Petersen hopes to farm with his brother, Hunter, and their cousin, Cody, 25.

“We all have our responsibilities we take care of,” he said. “It works out good. We all get along very well – especially Hunter, Cody and I work very well together.”

They grow corn, soybeans, sweet corn, canning peas and sugarbeets.

“I take care of the specialty crops, and my cousin takes care of the corn and soybeans,” he said. “My brother fits in where we need him.”

By speaking to people from other parts of the U.S., Brett learned that – outside of Minnesota and North Dakota – few farmers are familiar with sugarbeets.

He appreciates the way that sugarbeet growers have adopted cover crops to keep the beet seed and soil in place in the spring.

Sugarbeet growers also work to remain on the leading edge of herbicide and fungicide management.

The root crop is raised on farmland no sooner than every third to fifth year, and the sugarbeet tops are tilled under to add organic matter to the soil.

“We want to not hurt the environment, because that is what we live on, and we’re trying to do the best we can,” he said.

Brett sees the issue of consumer fear of GMOs as the largest concern for the sugarbeet industry.

“If we lose GMO seed, it will cost so much to grow a sugarbeet crop,” he said. “I got involved when glyphosate was available, and I’ve never been part of the industry before that. From the stories I hear, we don’t want to go back there.”

It’s very important to talk with consumers about the need for cost effective ways to grow sugarbeets and other crops, he added.

“We’re trying to feed more people all the time,” he said. “We’re trying to get it across that it’s not as bad as they think it is.”

Next summer, Brett will have an opportunity to learn more about agriculture and people’s perspectives when he travels to Ireland.

The trip abroad was given to all of the American Star finalists, plus the National Ag Proficiency winners. Last year, he traveled to Costa Rica with FFA, so he’s definitely found rewards from his involvement and work over the years in his FFA career.

“I encourage youth to join FFA and stay active,” he said. “You don’t have to be just from the farm. It’s a great group.”

Read full article HERE

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A ”no-gravy” year for 2016 beets

A ”no-gravy” year for 2016 beets

MOORHEAD, Minn. — American Crystal Sugar Co. has confirmed the final payment for 2015 sugar beets will be $49.77 per ton, but the first projected payment is $38 per ton for 2016 beets.

“The primary factors driving the decrease from the final 2015 crop payment to the November forecast are lower sugar content, lower sugar and agri-product net selling prices, and higher operating costs per ton,” said Thomas Astrup, president and CEO, in a Nov. 4 letter to shareholders.

“With a very large crop harvested, our actual beet storage and processing results will play a large role in determining the actual payment,” Astrup said in the letter. He said the co-op discussed the payment in detail at factory district meetings, completed Nov. 10. The meetings covered the sugar market, Washington policy matters and crop and factory topics.

Astrup, who is new to the position since September, declined to be interviewed about the payment level. The company’s annual meeting will be held in December in Fargo, N.D.

$3 unit retains

The company announced “unit retains” amounts at $3 per ton, which is less than the $4 held from last year’s payment. The amount is essentially a loan the cooperative takes from its own members, so that it doesn’t have to borrow that amount.

Officials at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., said they are not releasing any payment projections for the 2016 crop. The company recently told growers they would leave 12 percent of their acres in the field as a result of an unexpectedly high yield.

Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for agriculture at American Crystal, said sugar content in this year’s beets is the lowest it’s been in for several years. “That’s the flip side of getting those high tons per acre,” he said.

Rain and yields

Average Crystal sugar content is 17.02 percent throughout the valley, with the high of 17.2 percent in the Moorhead, Minn., factory district and the low end of 16.9 percent in East Grand Forks, Minn., and Drayton, N.D. The sugar content variation was not as great as the yield variability. Yield ranged from 36.4 tons per acre in the Crookston, Minn., district, and the low was 25 tons at Drayton.

“In both cases, it was due to rain,” Ingulsrud said. “Both got pretty close to the same amounts of rain. The difference was Drayton had more rain than normal in 2015, so the soils were already saturated. When we got rain this year, it really didn’t have any place to go. And a lot of the rain came early, before the beets were mature enough to handle it.”

In Crookston, the rains came later and the prior year was very dry. “We had a lot of room in the soil to absorb it. And we got it later in Crookston, generally.”

Looking ahead, Ingulsrud says it’s been warmer than desired to keep the piled sugar beets. But he said they went into the piles cooler than last year’s beets did.

There have been “little flare-ups of heat here and there” of warming beets in storage piles, but nothing like this time last year, where beets went into the piles dry, Ingulsrud said. One negative is there’s more mud in the piles, especially in the northern parts of the Red River Valley. That prevents the beets from breathing well in the piles.

“So far, the beets have been slicing at a very nice pace, which will help with a really long storage season,” he said.

Some growers said the projected $38-figure seemed like a steep drop from the $43- to $44-per-ton figure they expected them to be.

$1K per acre cost

Andrew Swenson, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist, said the cost-of-production for sugar beets ranges from $900 an acre to $1,200 an acre, with an average of about $1,000 acre. That varies depending on how much equity the farmer has in the business, which increases if the producer owns his land and beet cooperative stock.

“At $38 a ton, I think you’d need about 26 tons per acre to break-even,” he said. That doesn’t count the amount needed to return to labor and management. Swenson gets information from farm business education programs in Minnesota and North Dakota in the Red River Valley, where beets are grown.

“If you get really good yields, a guy’s not going to get rich on it but get by,” Swenson said. A similar thing is happening in the corn crop, which pencils out if you get 180 bushels to 200 bushels per acre.

The beet payment projection goes up or down can also depend on how well the beets store in the piles. The company needs to process almost 12 million tons of beets, compared to the 10.8 million-ton “sweet spot,” they usually shoot for.

Beet growers have had a “yoyo” of sugar beet returns in the past few years. Profits were strong in 2012, weak in 2013, and have been up and down since.

“Historically, beets have been a good crop, beneficial to the Red River Valley,” Swenson said.


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