PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Between 3,000 and 5,000 acres of Aroostook County farmland could be out of production this year after Cavendish Farms, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., announced it is suspending all potato planting operations in Presque Isle this season.

The move means a loss of 13 jobs, including three full-time positions, five full-time seasonal positions and five short-term seasonal positions, according to information released in an email Thursday afternoon by Mary Keith, J.D. Irving Ltd. vice president of communications.

Keith said the employees were informed of the decision by Cavendish human resource personnel on March 4, adding the decision was based on market conditions.

Calls to the Maine Potato Board were not immediately returned on Thursday.

The decision also put on hold plans for the company to invest $2.7 million in potato storage facilities in Presque Isle, according to Ken Arndt, Presque Isle planning and development director.

“This means a lot for us,” Arndt said Thursday. “This is going to have an impact on us.”

That construction, Arndt said, would have meant capital investment in Presque Isle in addition to the tax revenue it would have generated.

In addition, he said, the loss of those 13 jobs means less payroll money being spent in the area.

“That also has a negative impact,” Arndt said.

Arndt did say there could be some good news in the future if other potato growers are able to rent the Cavendish land and put it into production this year.

In her email, Keith confirmed there are no plans to sell the Cavendish land.

“It will be retained should the market conditions improve and farming potatoes becomes a viable option into the future,” she said.

Meanwhile, employees received a severance package, and the company is working with them on employment options, including possible opportunities at the Irving sawmill in Ashland slated to go online this summer.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.