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UPGI: Idaho potato crop ‘second lowest since 1998, harvest expected to be down more than 6 million hundredweight’

In a June 30 report published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) it is estimated Idaho planted 300,000 acres this season, down by 10,000 acres from the prior year.

NASS estimates Washington’s potato crop at 145,000 acres, down by 20,000 acres, and Oregon’s spud acreage is said to held flat at 45,000 acres.

According to NASS the U.S. potato crop was down by 47,300 acres, at 921,000 acres.

John O’Connell writes in Farm and Ranch that the United Potato Growers of Idaho also issues an Idaho potato acreage count, “which growers generally consider to be more reliable than the USDA number”. Rather than relying on surveys and complex calculations, UPGI sends staff to actual farms to count each Gem State spud field in person. O’Connell writes.

UPGI estimated a deeper cut in Idaho’s planted potato acreage, at 295,790 acres. Potato markets are especially sensitive to the volume of production, with a slight reduction in acreage usually improving returns to growers significantly.

“It will be the second lowest acreage since 1998. That’s good news,” said Rick Shawver, CEO of UPGI.

Based on Idaho’s average potato yield, the acreage reduction could reduce the state’s harvest by more than 6 million hundredweight of spuds, according to Dan Hargraves, executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative.

“I’d say it’s a pretty substantial reduction, in my opinion,” Hargraves said.

Hargraves believes Idaho’s potato industry has managed to “dig itself out of a hole” much faster than he’d anticipated.

Hargraves said Idaho’s frozen fry market has rebounded quicker than other states because less of the state’s potato products are exported abroad. Hargraves added that potatoes that one processor declined to take from growers “found a food use through other channels.”

“What once looked like we were going to have a crop that would carry over into next year’s crop, displacing demand for crop year 2020, that’s not going to happen now,” Hargraves said. “The Idaho crop is going to clean up on time and that’s big news in my opinion. That gives us a clean slate to start with.”

Source: Read the full report by John O’Connell in Farm and Ranch here
Photo: Russet potato growers. Courtesy Idaho Potato Commission

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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