After a historically bad season for harvesting sugar beets, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon has sent a letter to the U.S. government requesting disaster designation for Park County and four other counties impacted by early season snowstorms.

On Dec. 5 Gordon wrote a letter to Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, requesting the designation.

“The fall of 2019 was unique in the scale, severity and timing of freezing and snow events that made successful harvest and storage impossible,” Gordon wrote. “Producers did everything they could to maximize their harvest but the damage from these storms has been severe.”

The damage was mostly dealt in snowstorms that occurred Oct. 8-9 and Oct. 13-14. Then, warm weather in between the storms exacerbated the situation, causing beets to rot while in storage and reducing sugar content to beets still in the ground. So, while not all beets were lost, many of the harvested crop brought in less than profitable returns.

Big Horn, Laramie and Goshen counties were also recommended for disaster recognition. No decision has yet been issued by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The disaster designation allows farmers to become eligible for financial disbursement from the USDA’s Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus, a safety net for farmers who suffered unforeseeable losses to crops.

Under WHIP+, producers who suffer crop losses due to 2019 disasters receive an initial 50 percent of their total allotment once the application is approved and will receive up to the remaining 50 percent after January 1, 2020.

How much a farmer receives is based on the expected value of the crop and how much insurance they possessed. Uninsured farmers are also eligible but must go through the separate Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

In late November, Western Sugar Cooperative halted its beet harvest, an act not usually performed until February or March. Western Sugar Board Vice Chairman Ric Rodriguez said 31 percent of Park County and Big Horn County beets went unharvested.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service estimated on November 3 that Wyoming’s sugar beet harvest was 70 percent complete, with producers harvesting 30,600 acres before the end of the year, a 100-acre drop from 2018.

Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Powell), Rep. David Northrup, (R-Powell) as well as Reps. Lloyd Larsen, (R-Lander) and Mike Greear, (R-Worland) have also signed a letter to Gordon to request assistance for local farmers.

No suggestions for assistance were provided to the governor but Kost said in a recent Lovell Chronicle interview low-interest loans would not be the answer and said many farmers might go out of business because of the bad harvest.

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