PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s potato growers had the sort of bumper crop this previous season that they stepped in to lend a hand their giant brothers out west who have been brief on spuds.
Farmers from Maine shipped potatoes by way of rail for the primary time in 4 many years this wintry weather because of a powerful harvest within the state and warmth and dry climate that stymied farmers in famend potato-growing states like Idaho and Washington. The potatoes made their far more than 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) for processing, using in climate-controlled rail vehicles.
All advised, 21 million kilos (9.5 million kilograms) of potatoes, just about all from growers in northern Maine, flowed via a rail-connected warehouse owned by way of LaJoie Growers LLC. That equates to greater than 530 truckloads of potatoes, mentioned co-owner Jay LaJoie.
“It’s a excellent bite of potatoes,” mentioned Don Flannery, government director of the Maine Potato Board.
Lots of the Maine potatoes went to processors in Washington state, the place a lot of the french fries and different merchandise are exported. The shipments to Idaho have been seed potatoes, together with Maine’s Caribou russet, that’ll be planted this spring.
Chris Voigt from the Washington State Potato Fee mentioned processors have been thankful for the potato shipments, however they’re hopeful Maine growers’ services and products aren’t required someday.
The shipments got here to an early finish about two weeks in the past, birthday party on account of financial disruptions led to by way of the warfare in Ukraine. However it was once excellent whilst it lasted, serving to out potato processors in western states whilst lowering an oversupply of Maine spuds.
It additionally proved the price of rail strains for agriculture, particularly all the way through a scarcity of vans within the pandemic, LaJoie mentioned.
There’s no method growers can have sourced sufficient tractor-trailers to haul the potatoes, however there came about to be an to be had rail line that connects to a LaJoie-owned warehouse in Van Buren.
The lack of truck drivers has contributed to supply-chain issues all the way through the pandemic.
“I don’t see transportation getting higher anytime quickly,” LaJoie mentioned.
Whilst Maine is understood for its well-known lobsters, the state was once certainly as soon as the country’s potato capital via International Struggle II. Different states later stepped up manufacturing within the Nineteen Fifties. Idaho and Washington State are lately Nos. 1 and a couple of whilst Maine ranks 9th, in step with the USDA.
The odd scarcity of potatoes out west is a results of bizarre summer time climate.
A warmth wave with temperatures hovering above 100 levels Fahrenheit (38 levels Celsius) hit the Pacific Northwest in June, simply as potatoes have been beginning to develop. The end result was once decreased yields, and decrease high quality, Voigt mentioned.
“The crops type of close down,” he mentioned.
The intense warmth decreased yields by way of just about 10% for potato growers in Idaho and Washington, whilst Maine potato yields grew greater than 30% because of excellent climate, in step with the U.S. Division of Agriculture.
In northern Maine, the harvest was once so giant that growers scrambled to search out garage. Some constructions on the former Loring Air Power Base have been enlisted for a last-minute house for the plentiful tubers.
Finally, it proved to be a a hit pilot program for rail supply which may be used once more if odd climate patterns persist, LaJoie mentioned. Plus Maine loved getting some consideration for its potato trade because of the irony of David rendering help to the potato Goliaths.