PRESQUE ISLE — The drought that has hurt farmers in Aroostook County is going to reduce yields for many potato farmers.

Some farmers expect to eke out an average crop but many are reporting smaller yields because of the dry weather, said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board.

“Most say yields are down. In some cases it could be 30 percent but what the bottom line is for the whole crop is still an unknown at this point,” he said.

A weaker-than-normal harvest could send ripples through the economy already hurt by the pandemic.

The potato crop typically is valued at about $150 million – with potatoes being shipped to supermarkets and to processing plants to be made into chips and french fries.

The USDA has made Aroostook farmers, as well as those living in adjacent counties, eligible for emergency funding.

The region has been in a moderate to extreme drought for most of the summer. Some areas with months without a soaking rain.

In Caribou, it was the second-driest summer on record. There was an inch of rain on Sept. 30 and more rain Friday, but most farmers were wrapping up the harvest by then.

Only about a third of potato farms are irrigated; the rest depend on rain for the crops to grow.

Acreage has stabilized in recent years at about 50,000 acres even though the total number of farms has dropped because of consolidation, officials say.

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