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Western Sugar wraps up Billings beet campaign weeks early
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Western Sugar wraps up Billings beet campaign weeks early

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Trucks unload sugar beets

Beet trucks unload at the Western Sugar Cooperative in December 2019. Processing at the factory ended about a month earlier than normal due to poor weather that hampered the sugar beet harvest.

Beet slicing at Western Sugar Cooperative’s factory in Billings has ended roughly a month earlier than normal as a result of a 2019 harvest limited by weather.

The factory stopped slicing sugar beets the weekend of Jan. 12, said Brett Needens, a member of Western's board of directors and a Hardin-area sugar beet farmer.

Challenging weather conditions in October made it impossible to fully harvest area sugar beets, some of which were left in the ground, Needens said.

Cold weather initially caused delays of the area beet harvest to allow the crop to recover from poor conditions, Needens said. But eventually, late October freezing temperatures made it impossible to get the beets to rebound. Harvest had to stop.

Usually, the factory processes beets into February, often finishing up in the second week. Mid-January finishes are unusual but not unheard of when cold October weather complicates harvest. In 2009 an early sub-zero freeze on Oct. 8 severely damaged the area crop. That year the Billings factory finished up in mid-January.

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