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Idaho potato crop brings in record revenue, but didn’t benefit everyone equally

The Idaho potato industry ended up doing well in 2020, despite the pandemic. The industry set an all-time record for cash receipts according to University of Idaho economists. Potatoes brought in $1.08 billion in 2020, a 13% increase compared to the year before.

But, as Twin Falls Times-News journalist Colin Tiernan reports, those record revenues came with a lot of stress and didn’t benefit everyone equally. At different times of the year certain sectors within the potato industry flourished while others saw demand for their products grind to a halt.

Many processors temporarily stopped buying potatoes or shut down entirely. Packing sheds, which had plenty of potatoes, had to come up with new ways to keep spuds on grocery store shelves. Struggling farmers received millions of dollars in COVID-19 aid from the federal government both in direct payments and food box purchases.

Potato farmers had high hopes at the start of 2020. Then the pandemic dashed those high hopes. And right when some growers were experiencing the bleakest days of their farming lives, a summertime craving for fast food fries brought back demand to something approaching normal.

In the end, it was a roller coaster year that ended up being a net positive for most Magic Valley potato producers.

University of Idaho Extension Agriculture Economist Ben Eborn said it’s difficult to predict what 2021 will bring for the industry. He noted that demand should be up, but processors are being conservative at the moment.

Source: Farm & Ranch. Read the full story here
Photo: Idaho potato grower Ryan Cranney poses for a photo in April last year next to a mount of potatoes he made available free to the public. Courtesy Pat Sutphin/Times-News file

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