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      Drought hurts area potato farms

      With the declining economy and rising costs, it can be difficult to operate a business. When your product also depends on unpredictable Mother Nature, you may have trouble just breaking even.

      It's been a tough season for the Marenger's, who've been farming potatoes for decades. They raise over 80 acres of potatoes and ship them out across the state. But the lack of rain during peak growing season--late summer to early fall--put them at a 30 percent loss.

      "Everything looked good early, vine wise and that, but then we count on Mother Nature and everything and didn't happen, you know," said Glenn Marenger. "The little bit of precipitation we got when everything was sizing up, it hurt us."

      But lucky for them, not all crops took such a hard hit. Their pumpkins managed to ride out the storm or lack there of.

      "They turned out decent," Marenger said, "although I've had bigger and heavier ones in the past."

      With some areas receiving less than an inch of rain between August and the beginning of this month and the rising fuel and fertilizer costs, it's hard for any farmer to break even, let alone make a profit.

      Farmer Bruce Lippens harvests over 120 acres of potatoes a year. This year, Lippens says costs have skyrocketed nearly 200 percent, and if things keep going the way they are, he says eventually there won't be a crop to sell.

      "I guess in my mind, I'm hoping that it goes down because otherwise, farming is going to change drastically through the whole country because bottom line is, we still have to make money, and if we can't make money, we can't keep farming," said Lippens.