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Idaho Farmers Worry Early Cold Could Ruin Potato Harvest


All right, now a story out of Idaho. Potato farmers there are experts at getting their crops out of the ground before it freezes over. Third-generation potato farmer Kent Sutton farms 400 acres. And here's his schedule, starting with planting.

KENT SUTTON: Planting in May, emergence out of the soil late May, growing the potatoes through the year to mid-September, killing the foliage from the potato and harvesting into September, 1 of October.

KING: But it has been a challenge this year because rains delayed this whole process. And then there was a cold snap.

SUTTON: In all my years of raising potatoes and, you know, trying to squeeze in the harvest before the weather causes damage, this is the earliest I've seen a widespread frost of this magnitude.

KING: Idaho's potato industry supplies more than 30% of this country's spuds. And when the crop is in danger, so is the industry, and so are the livelihoods of generations of farmers. And so everyone now is chipping in.

SUTTON: The neighbors that are done or almost done are offering trucks and equipment - you know, tractors, harvesters - to go in and help the guys that still have a lot remaining.

CADE CRAPO: You've got bankers. You've got area people that are doing different things that call, and they offer to not just give you their prayers but put on their gloves and come help you.

KING: That second voice is Cade Crapo. He's a fourth-generation farmer. And he says that's just how potato farmers work.

CRAPO: The nature of farming - you are always competing against your neighbor for volume and market. But in the end, you're friends and neighbors. And the livelihood of one another is always on the mind of all the farmers in our area.

KING: Maybe we can do a little to help them out and order a side of fries. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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