Sugar beet harvest begins in Red River ValleyNo major problems were reported on the first day of pre-pile sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley on Tuesday, according to Dan Bernhardson, American Crystal Sugar Co.’s director of agriculture.
By: By Ryan Schuster, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
No major problems were reported on the first day of pre-pile sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley on Tuesday, according to Dan Bernhardson, American Crystal Sugar Co.’s director of agriculture.
“It went very well,” Bernhardson said. “We had steady traffic flow. There were very minor mechanical issues, but we were able to adjust on the fly.”
Bernhardson said weather conditions were good for the start of American Crystal’s pre-pile harvest, which began on Tuesday in all of the company’s districts.
“It isn’t muddy, so trucks are able to get in and out of the fields without any problems,” he said.
Pre-pile harvest typically brings in about 10 percent of the year’s crop. Full-scale round-the-clock harvest on all growers’ fields is tentatively scheduled to start Oct. 1.
American Crystal’s sugar processing plants in East Grand Forks, Crookston and Moorhead in Minnesota and Hillsboro and Drayton in North Dakota are to begin slicing and processing beets on Thursday.
This year’s pre-pile harvest started three weeks later than a year ago, “an indicator of the total tons we’re expecting to pile,” Bernhardson said.
Projections of this year’s crop average about 20 tons per acre, down from last year’s record 26.3-tons-per-acre harvest.
Bernardson said a wet spring delayed planting by an average of more than a month. He said it is too early into pre-pile harvest to provide any better indication of potential yields.
“This year we are looking at significantly lower yields,” Bernhardson said.
American Crystal has locked out its union labor force in its plants and has seasonal workers for the harvest campaign as part of an ongoing labor dispute, so the company is using replacement workers in its plants and for campaign work. No further talks have been scheduled between the union and the company.
Bernardson said the company has been able to fully staff its beet piling sites and the lockout did not negatively impact the first day of pre-pile harvest.
“Labor has not been an issue for us so far,” he said.
Union representatives have expressed skepticism that the company will be able to run its plants as efficiently or safely once the plants begin operating on Thursday with replacement workers. Company officials have expressed confidence in the replacement workers’ ability to operate the plants.
Company officials urged motorists to use caution on local roadways.
“As harvest starts there will be more truck traffic on the road,” Bernhardson said. “We are cautioning beet truck drivers and the public to be aware and drive with added safety.”
Motorists are also asked to beware of mud on roadways when it rains and fields become wet and muddy.
Ryan Schuster is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald,
which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.