In a turn around from a year ago Red River Valley potato grower-shippers in North Dakota and Minnesota anticipate plenty of potato loads for hauling this season. It would be a terrific improvement for both growers, shippers and truckers from a rain-soaked 2016 season.
Last year during the 2017 growing season, dry soil made growing and harvesting difficult although the abundant rainfall from 2016 had created good planting conditions. The result was a 30 percent drop in potato shipments.
A couple of timely downpours this past September helped the digging get started on time.
The Red River Valley potato harvest generally runs for about six weeks in September and October, with shipments typically lasting through spring.
The Red River Valley includes about 80,000 acres in North Dakota and 45,000 in Minnesota. Potato volume for the fresh market typically totals about 7 million hundredweight (cwt).
A significant change in the valley this season is formation of H & S FreshPak in Hoople, ND, a new company created when J.G. Hall & Sons of Hoople and O.C. Schulz & Sons Inc. of Crystal, ND, who purchased Northern Valley Growers of Hoople and changed the name to H & S.
Truck availability has been a concern in the valley this season, a situation that has a history. Due to the low population of North Dakota, getting loads into the valley is often a challenge. Other factors such as the recovery from hurricanes in Texas and Florida hasn’t helped the availability of trucks.
The valley has over 250 growers producing more than 40 million cwt. of potatoes annually, with about 17 percent of the product shipped to the fresh market. The region is the third largest potato growing area in the U.S.
Yellow variety potatoes continue to increase in popularity, mostly at the expense of Russets and whites, neither of which valley growers have produced in a number of years.
While U.S. red potato shipments increased about 14 percent between 2009 – 2015, white potato shipments plunged 43.3 percent.
The co-op Associated Potato Growers Inc. of Grand Forks, ND continues to be the valley’s largest potato shipper. Of the dozen wash plants in the valley, two of the other largest shippers are NoKota Packers, Inc. of Buxton, ND and J.G. Hall of Hoople.
Potato shipments from Grand Forks – grossing about $4800 to New York City.