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Published November 13, 2012, 11:54 AM

Weekend snow and rain halts northern Red River Valley potato harvest

As many as 1,500 acres of Red River Valley potatoes intended for the fresh market won’t be harvested this year, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

As many as 1,500 acres of Red River Valley potatoes intended for the fresh market won’t be harvested this year, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, based in East Grand Forks, Minn.

Rain and snow, followed by freezing temperatures, Nov. 9 through 12 ended the harvest season in the northern Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota, says Ted Kreis, the association’s marketing and communications director.

Dry conditions in September and early October, when fresh potatoes normally are harvested, made many fields too hard to dig. Frequent showers that fell later in October softened the ground, but left too few dry days to harvest the entire crop, Kreis says.

Fifteen hundred acres of unharvested fresh potatoes would represent about 6 percent of the region’s fresh crop. But even without the 1,500 acres, the Red River Valley fresh crop will be the largest since 2008, Kreis says.

Overly wet growing seasons hurt area spuds in many recent years.

Though this year’s regional fresh crop was relatively good overall, some individual growers and shippers will be hurt by the inability to harvest their entire crop, Kreis says.

Being unable to finish harvest because of bad weather is one of the toughest aspects of farming, producers say.

“It’s heartbreaking to invest that much money and effort in a crop and not be able to harvest all of it,” says Justin Dagen, a Karlstad, Minn., farmer. He’s active in the Minnesota Area One Potato Research and Promotion Council and is the immediate past president of the National Potato Council.

Dagen, who grows seed potatoes, finished harvesting his spuds before the recent precipitation and cold snap. But he’s had to abandon some of his potatoes in previous years because of uncooperative weather.

Dagen says he talked with one fresh potato grower who hadn’t finished this year’s harvest. That grower has hopes of resuming harvest in a week or so and trying to bring in at least some of the remaining spuds.

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