The Minnesota sugar beet crop is expected to be smaller this year, due to the long winter and rainy start to the summer.

Yield forecasts are down more than a ton per acre — a decline of about 4 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture — as farmers gear up for the fall harvest.

"We are looking at a smaller crop than average," said Kyle Petersen, a farmer near Murdock and chairman of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. "It is a definite issue, there's no question."

The cooperative's pre-harvest, when farmers start pulling small numbers of sugar beets out of the ground, will start in early September. Full harvest starts in early October, and the cooperatives are already looking for seasonal labor to help with the harvest.

The Southern Minnesota Sugar Beet Cooperative is now accepting online applications. Beginners can earn $12.94 to $13.94 per hour and should be prepared to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week in October. Seasonal jobs at several locations are listed on the cooperative's website.

The long winter and rainy start to the growing season have been a problem for corn and soybeans in western and southwestern Minnesota too, but soybean yields are expected to be up compared to last year.

According to the USDA's latest crop progress report, yields for sugar beets are 29.3 tons per acre, compared to 30.6 tons per acre last year. When beets are planted later in the growing season, their tap root has less time to develop, which prevents the crops from gathering nutrients and hurts overall yields.

"It's just a case where we've had excessive moisture," Petersen said.

Northwest Minnesota, where the American Crystal Sugar Co. is dominant, has been drier, and yields there are "at or above our five-year average," said Tyler Grove, general agronomist for American Crystal.

American Crystal is also now taking applications for seasonal labor. Pre-harvest started a week ago to prepare for the larger crop.

If anything, beet farmers in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota would like to see more rain.

"This'll be our third year of kind of dry conditions up here," Grove said.