MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources plans to take a closer look at the conversion of pine forests to potato fields in northwestern Minnesota.

The DNR estimates that North Dakota-based potato giant R.D. Offutt Co. has already purchased about 12,000 acres of pine forests in four Minnesota counties with the intention of converting them to croplands. The DNR says the current rate of forest loss in the region has not been seen in recent memory.

The company has asked the DNR for permits to drill wells to irrigate new and future croplands. But the DNR says its environmental review will put those permits and any further land clearing on hold. The review could take a year.

Officials with Fargo-based R.D. Offutt did not immediately return a call seeking comment.