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US: Thousands of seed potato acres in the Red River Valley will go to waste

Sander Dagen raised an exceptional seed potato crop this year. That makes it sting even more as he is forced to abandon approximately 80% of his acres because he cannot harvest them.

“You spend a year planning this out,” Dagen said. “To have to destroy them is a little bit sad for sure.”

The Karlstad farmer, like other seed potato farmers in the Red River Valley, had to abandon acres because wet weather delayed the harvest for several weeks. After rains and snow, freezing temperatures destroyed the crop.

Dagen’s family, who have grown seed potatoes for 101 years, have lost acres to heavy summer rains that drowned out the crop, but never such a large amount during harvest, he said. Dagen individually lost 69 of his 85 seed potato acres. Overall, Dagen, his brother Brooks and their father Justin lost about one-third of their collective 400 acres.

This year the Minnesota Department of Agriculture certified 4,933 acres of seed potatoes in the state, said Eric Byre, Minnesota Department of Agriculture plant protection manager. However, the certification was done before the crops were harvested and don’t reflect crop losses.

“The growers that were in the Red River Valley are the ones that are impacted the most,” Byre said.

Seed potato acreage near Stephen, Minn., for example, wasn’t harvested at all, and a farmer near Nielsville, Minn., harvested only one-third of his acres, Byre said.

The story is similar on the North Dakota side of the Red River, where the biggest share of the potatoes that didn’t get harvested are in the Red River Valley, said Ken Bertsch, North Dakota State Seed Department commissioner.

Slightly more than 70% – or 9,465 acres – of North Dakota’s seed potatoes that were inspected by the North Dakota State Seed Department are in the Red River Valley, he said.

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