The Mississippi Department of Agriculture is trying to secure disaster relief for the state’s sweet potato industry, which has lost an estimated 63% of its 2009-10 crop due to excessive rains.

That number could rise.

Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Lester Spell hopes Congress approves funding in the next few months, said Benny Graves, executive secretary of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, Starkville.

The industry’s losses stand at an estimated $39 million, Graves said. That could grow if wet and muddy potatoes put into storage don’t store well, he said.

Between 20% and 25% of the Mississippi crop had been harvested when the rains started in mid-September, Graves said. They continued for the next six weeks, with growers getting only one or two day breaks to get into fields, he said.

“The losses are pretty significant,” he said. “In fact, they’re unheard of in recent years.”

The state’s shippers will be able to meet Thanksgiving demand, Graves said. How far Mississippi product will last in the New Year, though, is another question.