North America

Eagle Eye Produce: Potato market insights, investments, and more

Jordan Okumura of AndNowUKnow reports that “the awesome potato has been a hotter category than usual as of late, with demand spiking through the spring months. As we get our foothold in June, the potato market is finding some stability for Eagle Eye Produce, though the consumer’s passion for the produce item is staying strong.”

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Idaho spore-sampling network features upgrades

Brad Carlson of Capital Press reports that a spore-sampling network designed to detect airborne diseases before they impact southern Idaho crops has been enhanced this year, its third in operation. Faster detection and reporting, and the ability to find more types of disease that could threaten potatoes and other crops, are among the benefits.

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The Packer: How the US produce industry responds to the pandemic

With the Farmers to Families Food Box Program underway across the country, companies are busy packing and sending fresh produce to food banks. Chris Koger of The Packer provides a round-up of recent COVID-19-related news. As far as potatoes are concerned, Koger writes that Potatoes USA is connecting with industry members through a new video series, Keeping It Current, to explain what the organization has been doing during the pandemic.

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The human face of a tragic time: She was a 102-year-old potato farmer born during the Spanish flu pandemic. She was killed by COVID-19

Frances Jordan Banks, a 102-year-old World War II Army nurse who served in India and spent many years on an Aroostook County potato farm, lived a life that was book-ended by pandemics. The Cape Elizabeth native was born during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, and died a few days ago of COVID-19. Banks was a nurse, but her family also knew her as a teacher “of all things” and relied on her guidance and wisdom. .

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Podcast: Fungi destroy $60 billion worth of food each year. Are natural biopesticides the answer?

Food waste plagues both farmers and consumers. Americans throw out much of what we buy at the grocery store—roughly 133 billion pounds of food each year, or $161 billion worth, according to the USDA. On this episode of Science Facts and Fallacies by the Genetic Literacy Project, Jamie Bacher, molecular biologist and co-founder of biotech startup Boost Biomes, joins GLP editor Cameron English to discuss his company’s novel approach to battling pests and promoting sustainable agriculture.

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High demand puts Wisconsin spuds in a good spot

Wisconsin spuds had a shaky start to the COVID-19 pandemic, but high consumer demand has put potatoes in a good spot, says the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. “The retail demand increased tremendously with the advent of COVID,” Executive Director Tamas Houlihan said. “Grocery store sales were through the roof, people were stocking up, and they weren’t buying the usual 5 and 10 pound bags. They were buying as much as they could.”

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PVMI: Working to develop the ‘perfect’ russet potato

Always working to develop the “perfect” russet, the Potato Variety Management Institute’s main mission is to promote new varieties of potatoes in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and beyond. PVMI Executive Director Jeanne Debons says it’s what they coordinate from their operation based in Bend, Oregon

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McCain Foods delays US potato plant project

According to a report by Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor at Food Processing, McCain Foods is delaying the expansion of its potato processing facility in Othello, Wash., due to the coronavirus pandemic. Demetrakakes says the project at the facility, about 100 miles southwest of Spokane, would have added another 170,000 square feet to the plant for a new processing line for battered and conventional French fries.

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US potato market shows clear pandemic effect

It was common for a fruit or vegetable to be having a good winter in terms of volume, pricing and demand, and then in mid-March, when lockdowns began, the item would see a sudden demand surge then crash. Greg Johnson, Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services reports. Johnson writes that no produce item shows this pandemic effect as clearly as potatoes, whose average F.O.B. price has been about half of what it was in early March, as demand has been significantly damaged by restaurant, school and institution closures.

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‘So, God made a farmer’

Dear Readers, most of us, whoever we are, and wherever we are located in the world, live no doubt in tumultuous and unprecedented times in the current day and age. And so do thousands upon thousands of farmers around the world. As an ex farmer, I feel dearly for them. As a humble ode to our farmers,, I decided to share with you here a poem that some of you might be familiar with. It is titled “So, God Made a Farmer”.

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On June 2, Washington State potato growers will reach mission to get 1 million pounds of potatoes to those in need

The Washington State Commission says on its Facebook channel that it is excited to announce that the Washington State potato growers will reach their mission to get 1 million pounds of potatoes that were scheduled to be processed to those in need on June 2 at 11am. The Washington State Potato Commission thank all those who have helped out along this journey to 1 MILLION POUNDS. The volunteers, those who donated there space, their time, the donations to the GoFundMe account, the food banks that made the trips to pick up pallets of potatoes.

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Entrapment: US potato processing industry ambushed by pandemic

According to a report published earlier this week by the Washington Ag Network, the National Potato Council and state grower organizations wrote Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue last week to talk about potatoes that have nowhere to go for processing. According to the Council, more than 1.5 billion pounds of fresh potatoes for processing and potato products are trapped in the supply chain with no likely customers.

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Canada: Alberta’s potato farmers facing mental, financial stress from production cuts

As Alberta’s potato industry in Canada reels from the devastation of COVID-19, one industry spokesperson says he is worried the mental health and wellness of farmers could be at stake. Terence Hochstein, executive director for the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA), said recent blows to potato farms have stoked his concerns for farm families. Hochstein said the industry is sitting on some 100,000 tons of potatoes right now that need to be processed by September.

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In memoriam: Potato industry veteran Dr Joe Pavek passed away

It is with great sadness that we report today that Dr. Joseph John Pavek (92) died from age related causes and a broken heart on May 24, 2020. Helost the love of his life, Sylvia, just 50 days earlier and after 62 years of marriage. Joe was a longtime friend of potato farmers and industry, serving as a potato breeder for the USDA at the Univ. of Idaho Res & Ext Center in Aberdeen, ID, working for 34 years (1965-1999). Joe developed new potato varieties with colleagues. Five of the top ten US potato varieties were created by Joe.

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Producer organizations in Alberta connect potato growers and cattle ranchers

Recently, some of Alberta’s ag industry leaders thought of an option to assist two producer groups hard hit by the effects of COVID-19. Many Alberta potato growers have a surplus of their crop as a result of the shutdown of restaurants and other businesses that use large quantities of potatoes. Alberta beef producers faced delays getting their cattle to processing plants because of shutdowns in late April.

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The future of drones in farming

Data, and the analysis derived from drone flights, is critically important to a farmer. The most common use case of drone derived data and analytics is early weed and disease detection, which protects crop yield and reduces herbicide use. Farmers also look for plant counting analytics, which can increase yield by improving early-season replanting and better predict yields, in the data they are looking for from a drone system.

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COVID-19: Major impact on Idaho seed potato grower

Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 crisis: Idaho seed potato growers try to cope with 40 million pounds of unwanted spuds

Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the pandemic. Industry officials estimate roughly 40 million pounds of Idaho seed potatoes have gone unsold or been returned to seed growers.

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Perfecting the potato chip

Each time a bag of potato chips is opened in the United States, there is a one in four chance that it’s filled with Michigan-grown potatoes. Michigan is the largest producer of potatoes grown for the potato chip industry in the US, A concerted effort made by industry stakeholders, spearheaded by Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch, and coordinated by the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, has built a partnership that is growing the industry.

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Better potatoes post-harvest: Identifying diseases and engaging good management techniques

When the storage doors open and farmers look at their cured potatoes, they are hoping for high-quality spuds that will garner a fair price. Unfortunately, potatoes can be sneaky. Some don’t reveal problems until harvest, or worse, when they are already in storage. Determining which disease is present allows for better management and application of appropriate controls. However, treatments in potatoes vary and there are no silver bullets. Potato diseases work together to exacerbate each other, and pests help to increase disease risk.

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Ag drone company developing fully autonomous spraying and seeding drone

The days of swarming drones in Nebraska skies have just begun. Rantizo — a relatively new player in the drone industry — is upping the game with its crop spraying technologies and bringing competition to the traditional aerial application business. Rantizo has shirked the spot treatment status quo, reaching full field capabilities with one drone covering 14 acres an hour. “Within the next two years, our goal is 100 acres per hour,” said David Pieper, Rantizo director of sales.

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US potato exports begin to slow

The world-wide coronavirus pandemic is impacting U.S. potato exports, as seen in the figures for March, according to Potatoes USA. In a press release issued today, the organization says U.S. exports of frozen potato products were off 12% in March 2020 compared to 2019. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were off 16%, and fresh were off 13% from the previous year.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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