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Magic Valley harvests

Magic Valley Farmer waits for Magic Harvest

Rupert—Farmer Brian Darrington is throwing all caution to the wind. 

The young farmer had the best season of his life in 2016, setting yield records for beets and wheat.

“I think we can out-do last year. In the Mini-Cassia area we had a very good spring,” he said. “I looked things over and I’m on track for another record.”

Darrington partners with his brother Jeff. “We farm 1600 acres. We have 580 acres of beets, 500 of wheat, 500 of beans and the rest is hay,” said Darrington. 

Magic Valley farmers are in their third week of a heatwave. The high temps work as a double-edge sword, helping the wheat, hurting the beets. So he’s keeping a 24-hour watch on the crops and thus far things are working out.

“The heat can shut us down, but a beet is tolerant it has a big root to draw water for survival. But if it gets dry it just lays down and kind of burns up and doesn't do anything. But we had early rains this summer and I got behind on water and it took us weeks to get caught up. But we’re saturated again and things look great,” said Darrington.

Last year was a record setting year for beets. Idaho farmers harvested a record 7.2 million tons of sugar beets on 2,000 fewer acres and turned out 2.34 billion pounds of sugar. According to the University of Idaho, sugarbeet revenues were up 2-percent over 2015's crop year. As good as things look in terms of yields, inputs worry Darrington.

“We’re consuming fertilizer at an astonishing rate. We fully fertilized this spring and we’ve had to call the airplane to spray additional fertilizer because our levels were coming in low. The spring rains brought our beets out early, right after we planted them. So we have stellar stand counts, lots of plants per acre and I'm on track for another record. But the downside is that we're spending a lot of money doing it.” said Darrington.

In any given year a lot of things have to go right to make money. Darrington says production and yields will be there, he worries about the market and hopes prices will match the quality of his crop. Last year the Darringtons planted fewer acres and still set a record, but said sometimes yields work against farmers.

“We’re a co-op and they will dictate the number of acres we can plant. I don't know of any catastrophic losses, I do know of a few crop failures where my neighbors had to replant beets and they’re a little behind, but I would say we are on track for a full harvest,” said Darrington.

Amalgamated Sugar Company is owned by the Snake River Sugar Company. The company says their 750 producers will grow sugarbeets on about 182,000 acres in Idaho this year. ‘I’m very optimistic that we will have a good crop, and hopefully we will have a market that'll reward us for our labors,” said Darrington.

Darrington add that this is a rare year because he’s excited about both beets and wheat. Last year they had a once in a life-time bumper crop.

“I averaged a 145 bushels per acre and hope to hit that that again. We get asked all the time how we do it. It's simple we spare no expense and we grow good crops. We'll see how many bushels we get this year, it just depends. My next best year was 125 bushels per acre. Our wheat is similar to last year, big stands, good water despite the two acres that we replanted, I’m set for another bumper crop.” said Darrington.

But USDA projections show that the '17 wheat crop across the board should fall short of last year. Late Crops have suffered from above-average heat and high temperatures has stunted growth in some areas. Darrington says the Mini-Cassia area started harvesting this week and looks good. According to the USDA Idaho might see the fewest planted acres of wheat in decades.