Westward Ho! Maine potatoes travel far after western drought

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PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s potato growers experienced these a bumper crop this previous time that they stepped in to assistance their huge brothers out west who were small on spuds.

Farmers from Maine delivered potatoes by rail for the initially time in four decades this wintertime thanks to a strong harvest in the point out and warmth and dry weather conditions that stymied farmers in renowned potato-expanding states like Idaho and Washington. The potatoes made their way additional than 2,500 miles for processing, using in climate-controlled rail autos.

All informed, 21 million kilos of potatoes, almost all from growers in northern Maine, flowed by way of a rail-linked warehouse owned by LaJoie Growers LLC. That equates to a lot more than 530 truckloads of potatoes, claimed co-operator Jay LaJoie.

“It’s a fantastic chunk of potatoes,” mentioned Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board.

Most of the Maine potatoes went to processors in Washington condition, the place significantly of the french fries and other merchandise are exported. The shipments to Idaho were seed potatoes, including Maine’s Caribou russet, that’ll be planted this spring.

Chris Voigt from the Washington Condition Potato Fee reported processors have been grateful for the potato shipments, but they are hopeful Maine growers’ companies aren’t demanded in the upcoming.

The shipments arrived to an early end about two months back, bash simply because of economic disruptions prompted by the war in Ukraine. But it was superior while it lasted, supporting out potato processors in western states though decreasing an oversupply of Maine spuds.

It also proved the price of rail strains for agriculture, specially during a scarcity of vehicles in the pandemic, LaJoie claimed.

There is no way growers could have sourced sufficient tractor-trailers to haul the potatoes, but there occurred to be an accessible rail line that connects to a LaJoie-owned warehouse in Van Buren.

The lack of truck motorists has contributed to offer-chain issues during the pandemic.

“I do not see transportation receiving much better whenever shortly,” LaJoie reported.

Even though Maine is recognized for its well-known lobsters, the state was in fact as soon as the nation’s potato capital by means of Earth War II. Other states later stepped up generation in the 1950s. Idaho and Washington Condition are presently Nos. 1 and 2 even though Maine ranks ninth, according to the USDA.

The strange shortage of potatoes out west is a end result of unusual summer months weather.

A heat wave with temperatures soaring over 100 levels Fahrenheit strike the Pacific Northwest in June, just as potatoes have been starting to expand. The result was minimized yields, and decrease excellent, Voigt stated.

“The vegetation type of shut down,” he stated.

The severe heat lowered yields by nearly 10 % for potato growers in Idaho and Washington, even though Maine potato yields grew extra than 30 percent thanks to very good weather, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

In northern Maine, the harvest was so large that growers scrambled to come across storage. Some properties at the former Loring Air Drive Foundation were being enlisted for a previous-moment property for the plentiful tubers.

In the conclusion, it proved to be a effective pilot system for rail delivery that could be employed yet again if unconventional temperature patterns persist, LaJoie said. In addition Maine enjoyed obtaining some notice for its potato field many thanks to the irony of David rendering assist to the potato Goliaths.

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