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US: Red River Valley potato producers struggle with shipping amidst trucking shortage

Red River Valley potato producers had a strong start to the shipping season this year despite a lack of available truckers which is now hurting growers.

But the trucking shortage likely won’t improve as the holidays approach, industry leaders said.

Potato producers shipped more than 700,000 hundredweight of potatoes in September and October, a 32 percent increase over last year’s count, according to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. That’s slightly ahead of shipments at that time for the 2015 crop, making this year “the largest fresh crop harvest in many years,” said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director with the association.

“They started shipping early this year because supplies were running very low from central Minnesota from the Big Lake area,” he said. “The other big reason was we knew we had a big crop coming in, so we had to make more room in storage.”

But producers faced a trucking shortage in the wake of several hurricanes, Kreis said. Truckers were sent south to deliver relief items to hurricane victims. That left other industries, including potato farmers, with fewer trucks to send their products across the country.

“Stuff is still moving, but we are struggling,” said Bryan Folson, general manager of Folson Farms in East Grand Forks.

The shipping shortage likely won’t lift any time soon, as producers with ties to the Thanksgiving industry will tap truckers to ship food, Kreis said. Truckers also will be used for the Christmas season.

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