President Trump yesterday held a press event at the White House to announce the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The potato industry has advocated for two distinct programs to provide relief to family farms impacted by this crisis. “Over the past two months, the U.S. potato industry has urged USDA to move quickly to help clear product out of the supply chain and support family farmers with direct support,” said NPC President Britt Raybould.
As of now, potato farmers in Wisconsin haven’t been hit too bad by the coronavirus. They’re going to be hit this Fall, according to a report by WHBL Radio. The problem for Wisconsin growers is that a lot of the state’s potatoes have gone to the fresh produce side of the industry. That’s totally fine for now, but once Fall hits and you have the potatoes from the Midwest and the ones coming from the Western states, it’s going to be an issue.
Prince Edward Island’s Department of Agriculture has begun an education campaign to make sure gardeners understand the importance of growing blight-resistant varieties of tomatoes this spring. In 2015, there was a similar education campaign after a new aggressive strain of late blight devastated tomato crops the summer before. The strain, called US 23, primarily attacks tomatoes. But it’s also a concern for the province’s billion-dollar potato industry.
New weapons in the battle against the pale cyst nematode — a major potato pest that has cost US farmers millions of dollars since it was found in southeast Idaho in 2006 — include an effective bio-fumigant and a surprisingly efficient “trap crop.” Researchers are also making progress in developing PCN-resistant potato varieties. “Understanding the biology allows us to target the weak point in the life cycle,” said University of Idaho Associate Professor Louise-Marie Dandurand, project director of the Globodera Alliance.
A $4.7 million provincial program developed in conjunction with the Prince Edward Island provincial government and Cavendish Farms should help deal with a surplus of potatoes accumulating in the warehouses of processing growers, says the general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Canada. However, there is concern in some quarters about the fact that all of the funds are destined for the processing company. The district director of the National Farmers Union said the deal raises “a lot of red flags.”
In a province that boasts one of the largest potato production regions in Canada, the surplus of potatoes waiting in storage due to COVID-19 is a major issue. Officials say that surplus is now impacting future crops. Potatoes that remain in storage past September will have to be thrown out completely. The Potato Growers of Alberta projects the loss to producers at around $26 million, with another $5 to $6 million loss to seed growers alone.
The amount of potatoes in storage for Canada’s processing sector is 4.2 per cent above the three-year average as of May 1, 2020, according to the United Potato Growers of Canada’s (UPGC) latest update. The UPGC attributes the higher numbers to the COVID-19 pandemic which has “had a dramatic effect on french fry sales as sit-down portions of quick service and fast casual restaurants were closed.” The Potato Growers of Alberta estimates about $60 to $70 million worth of processing potatoes are still in storage.
‘It’s millions of dollars sitting there’: Maine potato industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic
With restaurants, cafeterias, fairs, sporting events, and countless other events closed—or just starting to open with fewer seats – Maine potato farmers are feeling the pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Many farmers are trying to sell the larger potatoes they have in stock to retail stores like Hannaford. Hannaford has seen success with the Maine product in its 183 stores throughout New England. But many farmers are not able to repackage for retail sales.
Would you even recognize the version of yourself from February, 2020? Life changes fast. In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has pushed most of us into an alternate universe of our lives that, only a couple months ago, would have been unthinkable. Case in point, Canadians might be asked to eat 200 million pounds of French fry potatoes that have already been harvested, but won’t be moving through the usual restaurant supply channels. If Canadians are asked to heroically eat our way out of this fry surplus, can we do it?
The reports of some farmers, ranchers or dairy operations dumping their farm commodities is not easy news to digest. But imagine how the farmer feels? When a producer makes the decision to destroy some of their crop, it is their absolute last resort and they do it with a heavy heart, farm industry leaders say.A lot of producers are donating their crops to food banks and other feeding programs right now but sometimes that isn’t an option due to logistical hurdles or economics, said Pat Kole, director of industry and government relations for the Idaho Potato Commission.
Members of the Thomas and Delforge family farm have been forced to bag more than 160,000 pounds of potatoes — by hand. The family farm located in Coteau-du-Lac, a city 40 minutes west of Montreal, is a major producer for regional food suppliers. The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered demand for potatoes, bringing the industry to a halt. The family produces about 100 to 125 bags a day and sells them for $15 a pouch at a kiosk at the entrance of their farm. So far some 70,000 pounds worth of potatoes have been sold, with another 80,000 remaining.
Processor Lamb Weston has returned part of the 2019 potato crop to Northwest farmers, according to a report by Capital Press. The company doesn’t have the ability to run all of the 2019 potatoes remaining in storage, said Dale Lathim, executive director of Potato Growers of Washington. About 30% of the potatoes still in growers’ storage has been returned to farmers, Lathim said. He said that’s about 4 million hundredweight of potatoes in Washington.
With COVID-19 closures in place all across the United States, and even the world, restaurant demand for potatoes has fallen. According to Frank Muir, CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, 60% of Idaho potatoes go to restaurants. “We’re trying to move crops in unprecedented times,” Muir said. “Prices were strong but they’ve been dipping. We can’t replace 60% of the food service loss.”
While many potato growers across the nation are being forced to mash their spuds into the ground, Wisconsin’s spud producers aren’t feeling as hard a hit from COVID-19 as their western counterparts. In big western potato producing states like Idaho, Washington and Oregon where the growing season is a month or two ahead of Wisconsin, some growers had to make the difficult decision to disc some fields of potatoes under. “It hasn’t been a huge problem in Wisconsin, but what is looming ahead is a flooding of the fresh market,” said Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.
Lamb Weston has reported four cases of COVID-19 among its employees in Boardman. Three of the cases at the company’s Boardman facilities were reported in mid-April and one early this month, health officials said. “In each of the four cases in Boardman, we are confident we took the right measures for our team members’ safety,” said spokesperson Shelby Stoolman.
Washington Potato Growers are “On the Road to a Million Pounds of Potatoes” with plans to host their largest potato giveaway to date this Thursday, May 14. Approximately 200,000 pounds of potatoes will be available for giveaway in the Tacoma Dome parking lots. More than 320,000 pounds of potatoes have been distributed so far. Food banks can also make arrangements with the Potato Commission to pick up a pallet for their local locations.
Every year, Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board hosts a training day on how to scout potato fields. This year, in response to COVID-19, the training session is being brought online into a three-part webinar series. On May 21 and May 28, Potatoes in Canada, with support from BASF, will host three webinars on scouting best practices for diseases, pests and physiological disorders in potatoes.
While the usage of many chemical crop protection products to control nematodes on potato are getting more prohibitive for numerous reasons, many farmers are turning to biological products because they are usually proven to be safe, efficient and economical to use. US based GroPro has a proven track record of delivering natural and organic products. One of GROPRO’s flagship products is Vigilance Nematicide, the companies’ answer to farmers’ need for effective and safe bio-based nematode control solutions, and yet still being able to attain high yields and good quality.
Recent funding announcements from the provincial and federal governments will do very little to help local potato farmers, says Potato Growers of Alberta executive director Terence Hochstein. The province’s announcement on Thursday it would be increasing AgriStability payouts to help potato growers will not benefit the vast majority of producers, says Hochstein, because most are not eligible for AgriStabilty in any event, especially those who farm on irrigated acres and produce crops other than potatoes.
The potato industry needs more help than what the government has given so far, Kam Quarles believes. He spoke to The Packer’s Tom Karst on May 7. The shutdown of the foodservice sector related to shelter at home mandates has had sudden and severe consequences for growers, he said. The lack of movement at processors has backed up the supply chain and created damage to growers of seed, processed and fresh potatoes.
Potato farmers in the US plan to plant fewer spuds this year after demand for America’s most popular vegetable has plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic. Early estimates show potato acres down about 10 percent, said Blair Richardson, CEO of Denver-based Potatoes USA, a potato marketing organization. But even with that reduction, industry leaders fear farmers will be unable to sell all their harvest come fall. More than $1 billion worth of potatoes is “backed up” in the processing system, Those are potatoes processors would have sold this spring, but couldn’t.
Now in Eastern Canada: Unique eco-friendly hydrogel that helps maintain soil moisture, reduces watering frequency
Éco+ is proud to announce the addition of a revolutionary new hydrogel, Stockosorb 660, to its product line.The Stockosorb 660 hydrogel is a unique product that is mixed with fertilizer and put in-furrow to help maintain moisture in irrigation and dryland crops such as potato. Thanks to this technology, a single Stockosorb660 crystal can absorb up to 70 to 120 times its weight in water, which can reduce the watering frequency by up to 50%.
Canada: The Little Potato Company’s Angela Santiago talks creamer potato demand, online trends, and cross-merchandising
If the food pyramid had a “comfort” category, potatoes would certainly be pictured. “It is a vegetable item that is not as highly perishable as other fresh produce items, and potatoes are familiar. There’s no learning what to do with them,” says Angela Santiago, CEO and Co-Founder of The Little Potato Company. As we discuss the pivot the COVID-19 pandemic demanded of our industry, and of her team specifically, Angela walks me through the impacts of this temporary normal.
For farmer Mike Pink, spring is supposed to be a time of hope, when he can survey a green field of young potato plants and anticipate the bounty to be pulled from the sandy soils of the Columbia Basin, reports Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times. This year, this is a season when dreams die. Due to an epic potato glut that imploded his market, he has decided to do what was once unthinkable — destroy part of his crop rather than sink more dollars into cultivation. During the past two months, fast food sales have dropped sharply.
It’s become a familiar sight in The County — Pineland Farms Potato Co. distributing hundreds of boxes of food to people who are struggling under the economic effects of COVID-19, reports David Marino Jr. from Presque Isle, Maine. The company has handed out 9,500 boxes and about 300,000 pounds of food across The “Drive Thru Box of Food Giveaway” has now provided communities potatoes, eggs and cheese in 10 different giveaways since it began in Mars Hill on April 13, reaching people from Houlton to St. Agatha.