BILLINGS (AP) – Record sugar beet harvests will keep refineries busy making sugar longer than usual.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects the worldwide demand for sugar will outpace supply, reported the Billings Gazette.

Randall Jobman of Western Sugar Cooperative says farmers in Montana and Wyoming saw record yields.

“In Montana, we’re going to end up with 36.5 tons per acre, which is a record. And we’re going to see in Wyoming a 30.1-ton crop, which is a record,” Jobman said. “I think we had favorable crop weather.”

He said there was a lot of rain and blocks of time where temperatures were ideal for the growing plants in September and October.

Farmers growing beets in eastern Montana for Sidney Sugars broke a 1998 record by delivering 1.124 million tons.

The company’s agriculture manager Duane Peters said fall moisture was instrumental in reversing farmers’ losses over the summer.

“What saved us was that last week in September when we got 2 inches of rain,” Peters said. “We couldn’t dig. It was too muddy, and those beets just kept growing.”

Harvests will have a direct impact on refineries.

“We’re going until the first week of March,” Peters said. “We usually wrap up around the 20th or 25th of February.”

Beets kept growing without a hard freeze in October.

Average sugar content is slightly lower than usual at about 17 percent.

Montana’s economy absorbs roughly $100 million annually from its sugar industry.

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