(June 13)EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. —Heavy rains that fell June 9 and 10 in the Red River Valley could cause potato crop losses of 20% to 25% for A&L Potato Co.

“And that’s being optimistic,” said Randy Boushey, owner, who had toured fields the day before.

The growing region suffered from flooding last season, but those rains came in late July. This time around, the rains struck before the potatoes had time to emerge from the ground, Boushey said.

As a result, they run the risk of seed rot. Boushey said some potatoes also could be washed away by erosion.

For now, growers have to wait and see what comes up. The industry should have a better assessment of the damages within a week or two, Boushey said.

“It’s kind of like waiting for the jury to come back in and give us our verdict,” he said.

Of the 1,200 acres marketed by A&L in the East Grand Forks area, 25% was still underwater days after the storm, he said.

Paul Dolan, general manager for grower-shipper Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D., estimated that heavy rains hit 30% of the potatoes in the valley.

Ron Norman, manager of Ryan Potato Co., East Grand Forks, said rains covered the whole potato growing region, dropping anywhere from 2 inches to 12 inches in different places. One spot had 5-6 inches in two hours, he said.

Boushey, who had 6 inches in his rain gauge in one night, said losses were more severe for acreage north of East Ground Forks.
Dolan said Ada, Minn., south of East Grand Forks, also was hit hard by rains.

The Red River Valley usually harvests its potatoes around Sept. 10, Boushey said. Still, for the last three years harvest hasn’t begun before Sept. 25 because of poor growing conditions.

Dolan said before the rains crops were behind two weeks on the production schedule because of cool weather. All the same, he said the industry has enough time left to catch up, he said.
In the meantime, he said he hoped the area wouldn’t get any more rain.

Forecasts called for showers June 13-14, but Boushey said he didn’t expect much rain. If the region gets one or two more 3-inch rains, it would be in another world of hurt, he said.