North America, Trade/Markets/Prices, Trends

‘Cut and fried’: Northwest spud farmers take a deep hit on their processing contracts

The Northwest farmers who grow potatoes for your French fries are themselves plenty fried. The three massive agribusiness companies that make much of the world’s frozen fries, tots and hashbrowns are going to pay Northwest potato farmers less this year, writes Anna King in a news story for KLCC/Northwest News Network

“It really is a punch in the gut,” says Adam Weber, a 27-year-old, third-generation grower in Quincy in Washington’s Columbia Basin. Farmers like Weber say they’ve already taken a hit from the pandemic and higher fertilizer costs. Now they are going to get 3% less for their potatoes from Lamb Weston, McCain Foods and J.R. Simplot Company. 

Dale Lathim, with the Potato Growers of Washington, negotiates the potato contracts for the growers in the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon. “Growers don’t have a lot of margin to give up,” Lathim says. “And so to have a 7% swing [contracts going down 3%, and farmers’ costs going up 4%] is the biggest hit that the processing industry has asked growers to take on in decades.”

Lathim says the contracts have been negotiated so late in the spring that growers can’t easily switch to other crops. Growers have likely already fumigated, fertilized and in some cases planted much of their ground while preparing to grow potatoes.

Weber says the increasing land, equipment and fertilizer costs are driving out small family farms in favor of large corporate potato farms.

Source: KLCC/Northwest News Network. Read the full story here
Photo: Courtesy Weber Farms

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