The 2016 red potato crop damage may be the greatest suffered by the Red River Valley industry since 2001, according to Ted Kreis, marketing director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. The association is based in E. Grand Forks, MN.
“I think we possibly lost a third, if not more of the crop,” Kreis estimated as his growers began harvesting in September. “The flooding and hail we have had here is pretty substantial.”
He added that over 7,000 acres of potatoes may be lost, “which could be the worst ever.”
The Red River Valley potato growing season “had a great start” in May and early June this year. “Then, in mid-June the northern part of the valley, around Grafton and Hoople, had frequent and heavy thunderstorms. Then, in the third week of July there was a bad hailstorm that took out a large swatch of potatoes, sugar beets and soybeans near the Crystal area.” The majority of the acres are in the northern growing areas of the valley, he added.
The volume decrease “won’t be felt until spring, when we’re sold out. The prices may be higher everywhere in September but [for the Red River Valley] this will in no way make up for what we’ve lost.”
As far as the two-thirds of the potential crop that was in the ground in September, “there is some concern that there may have been too much rain. In some cases, that can cause quality issues. We shall see.” The harvest was to be in full swing in early October.
Kreis noted that, nationwide, there will be plenty of red potatoes, with growers in Idaho and Wisconsin both enjoying good crops.
Except for two large sheds, Red River Valley shippers finished the 2015 storage crop in May 2016. The spring deal brought good prices because of a poor spring red potato deal in Florida.
The red potato damage this year is another sting for Red River Valley growers. These growers apply good soil management practices by regularly rotating field usage with other crops.
For the alternative crops, commodity prices are low for the third straight year, Kreis said. Commodity prices in the valley were good for five straight years. And then things turned for the worse in the last three years.