2013 a tough year for Treasure Valley sugar-beet farmers

zkyle@idahostatesman.comJuly 15, 2013 

Farmer Mike Skogsberg stands in a field of sugar beets on his land in Notus, northwest of Nampa. A rough spring exacerbated what was already shaping up to be a rough sugar beet year.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

The spring was cruel to them. A series of windstorms blew seeds out of the ground or tipped over small plants. Frosts killed more.

Members of the Snake River Sugar Co., the co-op that sells sugar beets to Amalgamated Sugar for processing at its plants in Nampa and elsewhere, replanted a record 44 percent of their acreage this year, says Duane Grant, a Rupert farmer. Grant is chairman of both the co-op and Amalgamated.

Canyon County farmer Mike Skogsberg replanted about half of his sugar-beet crop. He said he spent about $6,000 to replant the Roundup Ready seeds. The sugar beets are genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The herbicide kills weeds but lets the beets live.

But Skogsberg says the replanting cost was minor compared with losing weeks of the growing season. Less time means smaller beets, which means a loss of five to 10 tons per acre from his average of 45 tons.

“It’s real frustrating,” Skogsberg says. “You see the potential out there. You’d done all your hard work to get that crop coming out of the ground. Then you have Mother Nature take it away from you.”

Sugar-beet prices are low, too. Farmers anticipated the prices hitting $40 at recent grower meetings, a 38 percent decline from 2010. University of Idaho analysts predict the average price for the coming year will be $45 per ton.

Pick up the Idaho Statesman's weekly Business Insider magazine on Tuesday for an in-depth report on the Idaho sugar-beet sector's struggles.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464

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