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By Mike Spieker
The sugarbeet root maggot is rearing its head in new areas, said North Dakota State University Research & Extension Entomologist Dr. Mark Boetel in an interview with Mic Kjar at the International Sugarbeet Institute. In 2018, the pest emerged exceptionally early – about 10 days to almost two weeks ahead of the average for its first emergence. High fly activity was seen at the end of May when Boetel and his crew are normally seeing their first fly.
Tom Astrup, the company's president and chief executive officer of the Moorhead-based cooperative, was in Grand Forks, N.D., at factory district meetings on April 2, was not immediately available to elaborate. Growers said they received news of the 6 percent price improvement in a recent letter.
Co-op officials historically have increased price projection improvements this time of year based on the quality of the beets that went into storage as well as cold, favorable storage and processing conditions.
The stabilized sugar market and prolonged relatively poor prices for corn, soybeans and competing crops have helped boost stock share prices for the beet cooperative. Shareholders have the right and obligation to grow and deliver beets that are processed through the co-op's five factories. Typically, brokered sales occur from harvest through spring.
Jayson Menke, a broker for Acres & Shares LLC in Grand Forks, one of the three brokerage firms that handle Crystal shares, said that as of Monday, April 1, 3,808 shares had been brokered for an average price of $3,357.01 during the 2018/2019 trading season, so far.
That level compares to the previous 2017/2018 season in which 4,659 shares were brokered at an average of $2,940.23 per share, Menke says. He used publicly available data from his company and two others—FNC Ag Stock LLC and Red River Land Co. All are in Grand Forks.
"I'd say the prices were very strong throughout the year," added Nick Watson, an ag stock specialist sith FNC Ag Stock. "There was a day in early January where it got down to $3,150 for a day. The range hit $3,600 both at the end of September and the beginning of March, it hit that price again."
Watson and Menke said sales are winding down as planting approaches.
Barring an unforeseen market crash late this spring, Menke said this will only be the second season that shares have been brokered at more than $3,000 a share for an entire season. Menke, who has been in the brokerage business 16 years, started his new company in late 2018.
"This is an impressive statistic given the state of the rest of the farm economy," Menke said. The best trading seasons occurred when agriculture was financially clicking on all cylinders, Menke said.
This season is on-track as the third-highest average share price since beets started trading through brokerage firms in 1994.
The 2011/2012 share marketing season was the last time average brokered sales topped the $3,000 level. That year, 2,016 shares were brokered in the $3,500 to $4,000 range with an average price of $3,777.82.
In the 2012/2013 season, 3,121 shares traded at an average of $3,941.32 per share. That season started at $4,200 per share, peaked at $4,450 per share in the fall, but dropped off to $2,500.
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April 3, 2019 at 08:40AM
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service released the latest Crop Progress report on Tuesday. In the report, harvest progress updates where given for the country's top four sugarbeet producing states, which accounted for 83% of the sugarbeet production in the U.S. in 2017.
North Dakota now leads with way with 45% of their crop harvested. That is up from 20% the previous week, but behind last year’s mark of 56%. The five-year average is 54%.
Not far behind is Minnesota at 41% harvested. They made tremendous progress from just 18% the week before. Their current pace is up from 38% at this point last year, but slightly behind the five-year average of 46%.
Idaho and Michigan are both at 34%, which matches the pace Idaho was at last year. It is also slightly above the five-year average of 29% for the Gem State.
Michigan is also ahead of their 2017 harvest progress of 28% and their five-year average of 22%. Last week, the Michigan crop was 30% harvested.
Harvest in nearly all of North Dakota and Minnesota has been shut down this week due to heavy rain, followed by accumulating snow. While temperatures remain around 25-35 degrees, things are supposed to warm up next week and growers are hopeful they can get back in the fields.
News and Notes from American Crystal General Agronomist, Tyler Grove
Pre-pile has gone well. We are in our third week. The first two weeks were dry so we stayed with our calendar really well, which is abnormal for us. Now, this week we have some new challenges with the rainfall, which was very welcomed.
Sugar content remains high at about 17.8%. That’s really high and that’s showing that the beets are a little on the dry side. We really did need that moisture, but the rain events will mess up our schedule a little bit this week.
Tonnage is tracking well. We’ve been missing this rain so we know it could end up where we want it to. Our estimates have not changed. Our ag staff estimate is at 30.8 tons/acre. We are going to hold that course until we see things change otherwise.
The hail damage in the Moorhead district over the weekend wasn’t widespread, but where it hit was pretty severe. We had about 2,800 acres that were damaged. That hail takes all of your leaves… all of your solar panels... right off the plant. It’s really a bad time of year for that to happen.
How Hail Damage Effects Sugar Content:
The beet wants to repair its solar panels so it pulls sugar reserves from the root as building materials. The sugar content will start dropping as the beet begins to put on new leaves.
News and Notes from SMBSC Research Director, Mark Bloomquist
We have had a variable crop due to the moisture conditions we’ve had all summer long. We are looking at starting our pre-pile harvest on Tuesday, Sept. 5th. We are continuing to fight Cercospora. It’s been a nemesis for us for several years in a row and our wet and humid weather conditions this past season have brought the disease on again. We are vigorously trying to stop it.
While Cercospora pressure is higher than it was in 2017, it still isn’t quite as bad as the 2016 growing season. In 2016, we had fields turning brown earlier in the season than we do right now. The variability of our crop this year has made the spraying a lot more difficult.
News and Notes from Minn-Dak Research Agronomist, Mike Metzger
The growing season for Minn-Dak is coming along very well. Our staff took our second round of yield samples last week and turns out we have 26.6 tons out there right now. Sugar content is just shy of 15%, which is actually pretty good for us. The purity is the highest we’ve had in a couple decades for the August sample.
All that put together, the staff’s estimate is 31.1 tons/acre.
Cercospora Leaf Spot:
Cercospora is okay right now. Most guys have four to five applications on. The program is holding very well. Yes, you can find Cercospora out in the field, but it’s not anywhere near economic threshold. We are feeling very good about that.
With slicing going into July, we have delayed our pre-harvest until the latter part of September. Around September 17-18 is when we are looking at putting our first beets on the ground. Stockpile harvest is set to begin at or around October 1.
A loader digs into a 120,000-ton pile of beets that was hard-frozen with ventilation, then covered with insulation, and finally “shrink-wrapped” with plastic. About 1.5 feet of deteriorated beets on the tops of piles insulate the rest, which is frozen to the top. Photo taken June 5, 2018, at Wahpeton, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)
WAHPETON, N.D. — Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative was supposed to have been done slicing sugar beets June 5, but is expected to continue through the end of the month — perhaps into July. That's due to a large 2017 crop and an expensive equipment breakdown in March.
The company typically tries to size the storage piles for a May 20 end-date. The board projected the longer campaign based on a 9,700-ton-per-day slice to accommodate a 30.5-ton per-acre crop.
Things were going fine until the company's diffusion tower broke down in mid-March, interrupting processing for about 13 days. That was followed by the third-warmest May on record.
A diffusion tower is a key component of the factory that extracts about 85 percent of the sugar and there is only one per factory — no backup. Beet cossettes — slices of beets — go into the bottom of the tower, which is a vessel that is about 35 feet wide and 115 feet tall. It works like a big grain auger, with flighting that slowly lifts the beet pulp up as hot water cascades down, flowing through and removing the sugar. When the pulp comes out the top, it is dried and sold as livestock feed.
When full, the tower holds 3,000 tons of compressed pulp.
"When your diffusion tower fails, your whole factory stops because you don't have a backup diffusion tower," he says. Components in the bottom third of the tower had to be replaced.
BMA, the German manufacturer who made the tower, last summer had done a detailed inspection and concluded it was in good shape. "None of us could have anticipated it," Wickstrom says of the failure. A cause has not been determined.
Wickstrom praised the Minn-Dak staff and the repair teams for getting the piece repaired in 13 days, rather than the 30-day norm. BMA had a technician on-site within 36 hours of the failure.
BMA air-freighted a new set of bottom screens from Germany to fit the factory's unique size. Other equipment was twisted and custom-made at machine shops "from Winnipeg to Minneapolis," Wickstrom said. Two crews of 20 outside contractors were on site 24 hours a day, taking broken pieces out of the tower and putting in new pieces as they arrived.
Wickstrom was "very disappointed that it failed, but we did everything we possibly could to minimize the downside," he says.
About 130,000 tons of beets would have been processed through that down time. Minn-Dak had expected to process 2.56 million tons but now expect to slice 2.43 million to 2.46 million tons.
The good news is the beets are storing better than expected.
In mid-May, a pile at the factory that was simply covered in plastic had about a foot deep of deteriorated beets on the top — "empty carcasses" — and that insulated the beets below. Even after 90-degree days in May, the piles are "frozen to the top," insulated by a slimy layer of 1.5 feet of deteriorated beets on the surface.
The company is working on its final exterior pile and then will go to its three sheds with 80,000 tons each. Minn-Dak for the first time leased "chillers" to keep the beets in those sheds frozen. "We added a chiller system to the middle shed five weeks ago, and when we opened the doors to put the chiller in that shed, there were ice chunks on the floor," Wickstrom says.
"We had a nice cold winter to get them frozen very hard. That's certainly helping us now and paying off," he said.
Some of the cost may be covered by insurance, but final estimates on that won't come until September or October.
Last November, Minn-Dak projected a "conservative" $32.50 per ton for the 2017 crop, based on average quality sugar. The company made an interim payment June 1 based on $30 per ton for average quality beets.
He doesn't anticipate changing that payment from the $30 to $32.50 per ton range, even with the costs of the breakdown. Shareholder costs vary, and most growers can break even or better at $32 a ton, he said.
The two big unknowns are whether the beets will store for 25 to 30 days and how much and how quickly Minn-Dak's insurance company will cover the multi-million dollar repairs. "It's obviously a very large claim," Wickstrom says, but the company insures other beet cooperatives and "we're optimistic they'll be fair."
The delayed slice campaign will mean the company's 2018 crop harvest date will be around Sept. 18. Over the past five years, the harvest at times has started as early as late August.
Typically, harvest starts from the third week in August until mid-September, depending on crop size and development.
The co-op also cut back 2018 acres to 88,000 planted acres, down from 95,000 acres in 2017. That assumes 30-ton per-acre average yield that growers have achieved over the past three years.
American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minn., completed its slice May 23. They harvested more than 12 million tons, a record, and started processing in their five factories on Aug. 17, "It was a very good storage year," said Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for agriculture. "We had a cooler than normal spring which really helped for good storage of the beets."
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June 12, 2018 at 11:28AM
By Pamela Knudson | Grand Forks Herald
Tyler Seim of Grand Forks has launched a new crafts distillery, making vodka from sugar beets in an operation based at 4051 Gateway Drive. Seim began the Red Pine Distillery in February, and his products have been available in retail businesses since March, he said.
His business is heavily focused on supplying products to liquor stores in Grand Forks and Fargo, but also has retail customers in Devils Lake, Minot and Williston, he said.
He estimates that he is producing about 50 to 75 cases of vodka a month, the amount that he likes to have on hand to fill orders from his distributor, he said.
But he has the capacity to produce 150 to 200 cases a month, he said. Each case holds 12, 750-milliliter bottles.
The process of producing a batch of vodka takes about three weeks, he said.
He obtains sugar beets from David Thompson of Thompson Brothers, a farm group located 10 miles north of East Grand Forks, next to the farm of his parents, Darren and Debbie Nelson, where he grew up.
In his distillery, Seim also uses a concentrated sugar beet syrup from American Crystal Sugar in Hillsboro, N.D., where he is employed full time as an engineer.
Seim sells his products to Johnson Brothers, a distributor in Fargo that has also introduced his products to its restaurant and bar clients, he said.
He is experimenting with gin and another product that's similar to rum, also with a sugar beet base, he said, and is planning to venture into the production of whiskey and brandy, also using sugar beets.
Seim earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from UND in 2015.
"A big part of the curriculum was distillation, the separation of chemicals," he said.
That sparked his interest in the production of beer, wine and spirits and "grains, grapes, apples—whatever you can ferment."
His new business combines his interest in distillation with the use of agricultural products that are prevalent in this area.
"It was something I found interesting, as far as the product goes," Seim said.
He's intrigued by "the variety of products you can make out of the same ingredients."
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May 14, 2018 at 08:40AM
North Dakota, Michigan & Idaho Sugarbeet Planting Progress Now Ahead of Average
The USDA released the Crop Progress Report for the week of May 6th. In the report, planting progress data for the country’s top four sugarbeet producing states were listed.
Sugarbeet planting across the country has seen tremendous progress over the last week. Percentage-wise, Michigan had the biggest gains. The Wolverine State now has 80% of his projected sugarbeet acres planted, ahead of last year’s pace of 46% and the five-year average of 59%. Last week, Michigan had just 13% of its acres planted.
North Dakota has crossed the halfway point at 66% completed. Despite being two percentage points behind last year’s pace, N.D. is now ahead of the five year average of 53%.
Idaho is nearing completion of its sugarbeet planting season. Ninety-two percent of the Gem State’s projected acres are in the ground, ahead of the five-year average by one percentage point. Last year at this point, Idaho had 87% of its beets planted.
Minnesota, the largest sugarbeet producing state, is sitting at 50% completed. That is up from just 10% last week, but behind the five-year average of 57% and last year’s mark of 74%.
Stay tuned to SugarPub.com throughout the growing season for news covering all U.S. sugarbeet producing regions!
Sugarbeet Planting Commences for Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota
The USDA released the Crop Progress Report for the week of April 29th. In the report, planting progress data for the country’s top four sugarbeet producing states were listed.
Sugarbeet planting is officially underway for the country’s largest sugar producing area; the Red River Valley. Both Minnesota and North Dakota have put 10% of their projected crop in the ground. The five year average for Minnesota is 44%, while North Dakota’s is 38%
The Michigan planting season is also underway. Thirteen percent of their crop has been planted, up from one percent last week. At this point last year, Michigan was sitting at 28% completed. Their five year average is 35%.
Idaho remains the only state listed in the report that is ahead of both last year’s pace and the five year average. The Gem State has planted 85% of its projected sugarbeet acreage, up from 66% last week. Both the five year average and last year’s progress for this week is 83%.