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North Dakota Ag News Headlines
From Farms to Fries - Northern Plains' Potato Journey
North Dakota Ag Connection - 09/12/2023

The sights of potato trucks navigating the roads of North Dakota and western Minnesota during the harvest season aren't just picturesque – they're a testament to an industry that's thriving. The trucks represent the hard work and dedication of the trucking industry workers who keep the economy running.

According to sources from the Northland Potato Growers Association, the Northern Plains region stands as the third largest potato producer in the U.S., boasting a whopping $500 million in value. This production not only supports 5,600 full-time jobs but also accounts for an impressive 17% of the area's agriculture and food processing sector.

Historically, potatoes have held their ground in the northern Plains. Though the number of acres planted has decreased over the decades, the industry has witnessed a surge in production.

Take 2022, for instance: North Dakota farmers planted fewer acres compared to 1984, but the production saw an impressive 32% jump. Similarly, in Minnesota, despite a reduction in planted acres, production remained consistent at around 20 million hundredweights.

Behind this success lies the marvel of irrigation. Approximately 60% of the region's potatoes are grown under these conditions, primarily for processing. Irrigation played a pivotal role especially after the drought years of the late 1980s, which impacted both potato size and harvest quantity.

The demand for a consistent potato supply led to a transition to irrigated cultivation, ensuring quality and quantity. By 2018, North Dakota alone had 28,300 acres dedicated to irrigated potatoes.

Researchers have developed improved potato varieties for processing, such as Dakota Russet, which yield more and require fewer resources, attracting big brands like McDonald's to their North American operations.

The Northern Plains potato industry, despite initial challenges, is growing due to research, technology, and dedication, transforming potatoes from fields to fries, satisfying hunger and fueling the region's economy.

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