Already faced with expected big losses this year due to rain and hail, potato growers in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota are now having trouble just getting the season started.

And more rain could be on the way.

A continuation of rainy weather that started in June has made it hard for many valley growers to even get into fields, said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn.

In addition to rain, hail in the second half of July damaged crops.

“It’s been tough going — there’s a lot of mud,” Kreis said Sept. 21. “I’m not sure if there’s anyone who hasn’t started, but it’s been a trickle.”

As of Sept. 21, three of the region’s 12 wash plants were shipping, Kreis said.

Steve Tweten, president and sales manager of Nokota Packers, Buxton, N.D., said growers south of Grand Forks, N.D., have fared better than those on the other side.

“Up north there are all kinds of issues,” he said Sept. 21.

Tweten said it was impossible to estimate losses until the crop is harvested, but Kreis said losses could be 35% or, if the rain continues, as much as 50%.

As of Sept. 21, there was a 50 to 60% chance of rain Sept. 23-25, he said.

“We’ll have a better idea next week” of industry losses, Kreis said.

In addition to losses this year, there could also be problems with next year’s crop, due to loss of seed potatoes this year, Kreis said.

Bruce Huffaker, editor of the Meridian, Idaho-based North American Potato Market News, estimated Sept. 7 that 2016 North Dakota production would be 21.4 million cwt., 21% lower than last year. Minnesota is projected to produce 16 million cwt., down 1.2%.

The Huffaker estimate is not broken down by regions within states or by variety.