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More than acreage

Sep 5, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

The sugar beet story this year is a lesson to outsiders on ag realities

Staff writer Eric Blom's recent story on sugar beet production in Fremont County and Wyoming was a lesson in some of the realities of agriculture. In farming and ranching -- cornerstones of the local economy -- things are not always as they seem.

Fremont County's sugar beet growers put more acres into sugar production this year, and there are more beets to show for it. There was adequate water all year, and the beet piles at the two weigh stations at Midvale and near Shoshoni will be mini-mountains in a few weeks.

So far, so good.

But the beets don't appear to have the sugar content that crops in other years have had. That's nothing against the growers, who, obviously, are raising up a good crop. How sweet the beets are has to do largely with availability of water at the right time, availability of sunlight at the right time, day-night temperature variation, the length of the growing season, and other factors either largely or completely out of the grower's control.

Further compounding matters is the price of sugar, which is more than $3 a pound below what is was just last year. When the precise figures are calculated, beet farmers are likely to get about 19 percent less this year than last.

Apply that percentage of downturn to your business or your own paycheck, and you'll see some of what the growers are up against -- in a year that looks like a bumper crop on the surface.

Farmers have a lot of control over how many acres they plant, and they are darned good at getting the crop from seed to harvest. Look no further for proof than the bountiful beet fields of Fremont County

But growers still can't control the weather or market prices. If they could, then they'd really be onto something.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Wednesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office at 3:10 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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