Skip to main content

Deforestation concerns delay plans to replace MN pines with potato fields

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A company's desire to level of thousands of acres of pine forest and replace it with potato fields has prompted a state review of deforestation levels in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced Thursday it will stop granting permits needed for potato irrigation while it investigates the impact of levels of forest loss in the northwest region "not seen in recent memory."

It comes after North Dakota potato processor, R.D. Offut, has bought up land in Becker, Cass, Hubbard and Wadena counties, which includes some 12,000 acres of pine forests.

Some has already been cleared, with the rest slated for clearing to be converted into irrigated potato fields. The DNR says another 15,000 acres of forest in the area have the potential to be sold on and used for crops.

The Star Tribune reports that forest loss in those four counties could reach 42 square miles, and officials are concerned about the impact growing land conversion could pose for future water supplies, fish and wildlife.

The DNR won't start granting potato irrigation permits again until is produces what it's calling an "environmental assessment work sheet," which is expected to take up to a year to complete, the newspaper says.

What impact could it have?

The DNR says the area where the potatoes are being grown is home to sandy soils, which can result in nitrates contaminating local sources of water.

This could have an impact on drinking water, fish and other aquatic species, and the surface waters in northwestern Minnesota is the source of drinking water for people as far south as the Twin Cities.

Loss of pine forests could also have an adverse effect on local wildlife, particularly deer in what is an area with Minnesota's highest deer populations.

Next Up


1 dead, 2 with life-threatening injuries in Minnesota crash

The crash happened just after 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Image (1)

School bus carrying students plunges into river southwest of Fargo

None of the kids suffered life-threatening injuries, though some were taken to area hospitals.

Richfield High School

Richfield High School cancels weekend events after shooting

Two men were shot outside the school's football stadium

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 10.21.38 PM

Sound of shots, mass panic at Richfield football game streamed live on YouTube

Gunfire caused panic at a varsity football game Friday night.

J. Gordon

K-9 search leads to $36K fentanyl seizure during traffic stop

A traffic stop was made after the vehicle was seen speeding through the area.

Screen Shot 2022-09-23 at 5.20.08 PM

Gov. Walz reacts to Tuesday death of Mankato West student

The governor is a former geography teacher at the high school.

court room

Teen pleads guilty to Minneapolis carjacking, admits to others

The man was yanked out of the vehicle by witnesses before fleeing the scene.

Federal court house

Three plead guilty to roles in murder on Red Lake Reservation

The 2019 murder left another person seriously injured.


Sheriff: Heifer shot and butchered on farmer's pasture near Aitkin

Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office.


Minneapolis murder suspect arrested in Wisconsin

The man has been wanted by police since the shooting happened in April.