Just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought physical meetings to a standstill, the board of directors of United Potato Growers of Canada held a face-to-face meeting in Ottawa to review potato stocks and discuss the market situation across the country. General Manager Kevin MacIsaac noted stocks nationally were down 1.9 per cent or one million hundredweight over the three-year average as of March 1. He said that Prince Edward Island holdings were up 3.9 per cent.
President Trump and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced some $2.7 billion in financial support targeted to the fruit and vegetable industry in response to the overwhelming losses from the COVID-19 emergency. “The U.S. potato industry is $4 billion annually with 60% of that total involving food service,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of FFVA. “Potato growers appreciate Secretary Perdue’s rapid action intended to stabilize family farms whose survival is threatened due to the mandated food service shutdown.
A potato study utilizes irrigation system feedback to distinguish between “thirst” and disease. The three-year project is supported by the Texas Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant program. “If you were just assuming it was a healthy plant, then you would put water on it. But if it is really a diseased plant, then putting water on it is not going to help at all. Matter of fact, it may make the disease worse,” according to Charlie Rush, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist.
Potato crisis in Washington state: 1 billion of 3 billion pounds in storage might not be used, says exec director
The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has slammed broadside against the Washington potato and dairy industries, with both facing the prospect of dumping product because markets have disappeared, reports Thomas Clouse of The Spokesman-Review. Washington growers have 1 billion pounds of potatoes in storage with no place to sell them, said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington Potato Commission. “That’s a lot of potatoes,” Voigt said. “Every man, woman and child in Washington state would have to eat 200 pounds of potatoes between now and the Fourth of July.”
With coronavirus severely affecting the potato supply chain, a farm in Idaho is giving awayabout 2 million pounds of potatoes so they don’t go to waste, Alisha Ebrahimji of CNN reports. Ryan Cranney, CEO of Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, about 150 miles from Boise, told CNN the response has completely blown him away. “People are coming from all over the place.” Most of the people who have come for the potatoes are doing it for others.
In the 2018-19 crop year, Canada exported about $38 million worth of seed potatoes. Almost all of the seed potatoes went to the United States, with a tiny share going to Uruguay and other nations. Those exports are now in jeopardy because COVID-19 has drastically cut into consumption of french fries. Potato seed growers in Canada will sell a portion of their crop this spring, but the rest could go to waste.
Manitoba potato growers are feeling the impact of COVID-19, Cory Knutt of PembinaValley Online reports. According to Dan Sawatzky, Manager of Keystone Potato Producers Association: “Acreage will be down this year,” he said. “An estimate might be in that 67,000 range, which is similar to a couple years back. We are seeing demand for fries diminishing, certainly with the COVID-19 virus.
The coronavirus outbreak has had a major negative impact on farm commodity prices in the US. The fallout from the coronavirus response has begun to drag down what were until very recently good potato prices.
Potato processor Cavendish Farms hasn’t laid off any staff yet because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but a spokeswoman for the company says short-term layoffs are expected. Keith said Cavendish Farms has reduced production with no layoffs so far but expects there will be some in the short term.
Bob Larson of AgInfo reports that the USDA and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue have some tough decisions to make in the coming days. They have to decide how to allocate the $9.5-billion dollars earmarked for agriculture in the CARES Act relief package. National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles says while that’s a significant amount, it won’t be nearly enough.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought physical meetings to a standstill, the board of directors of United Potato Growers of Canada held a face-to-face meeting in Ottawa to review potato stocks and discuss the market situation across the country. General Manager Kevin MacIsaac noted stocks nationally were down 1.9 per cent or one million hundredweight over the three-year-average as of March 1. However, the former chair of the PEI Potato Board noted Island holdings were up 3.9 per cent.
French fry processors will pay Idaho potato growers a slightly higher price this year, but will order fewer because of lower demand from restaurants and foodservice outlets closed by the COVID-19 shutdowns, Capital Press reports. The annual contract between growers and processors calls for a 2% price increase from 2019, in response to growers’ higher labor and machinery costs, said Dan Hargraves, acting executive director of the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative.
The Canadian Potato Market was marching along at an excellent pace until the events of Covid-19. Initially, the fresh side of the industry saw rapid sales increases as consumers began to stockpile potatoes for an extended period of time at home. Many packers were barely able to keep up with emptying store shelves.
McCain Foods announced a donation of up to 20 million pounds of potato products to support Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest and other local food security organizations across Canada,
Michael Family Farms, Urbana, Ohio, launched a website showcasing its operation and Side Delights potato products. The website, www.MichaelFamilyFarms.com, gives consumers product details, nutritional information, recipe suggestions, on-farm food safety procedures and other information. according to a news release. Side Delights has a dedicated section so consumers can learn more about the line.
Idahoan Foods reports demand for its products is booming. It says orders were up 250% in March alone and the company anticipates increases in sustained demand going forward. The company is the leading provider of mashed potatoes in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes the company as a critical agricultural industry. Idahoan Foods President and CEO Drew Facer said the company is dedicated to ensuring the safety of its 780 employees while continuing production.
Jeff Stark’s retirement plans would just have to wait. With only two and a half weeks until his retirement, Stark was busy completing all the necessary paperwork for the release of the Galena Russet, a new potato variety. Stark had been the director of the University of Idaho’s Potato Variety Development Program since 2006 and he estimated that the Galena Russet potato variety was the 22nd or 23rd variety released during that time.
A pandemic forcing everyone to stay home could be the perfect moment for online grocery services. In practice, they’ve been struggling to keep up with a surge in orders, highlighting their limited ability to respond to an unprecedented onslaught of demand. Instacart, a platform that partners with more than 25,000 stores in North America, says orders in more recent weeks have surged 150 percent. In Britain, CEO Melanie Smith e-mailed customers to tell them demand spiked to 10 times the normal level.
The situation changes every day, but potato acres in Canada and the United States could take a dramatic hit in 2020. Potato production may drop by 25 to 30 percent because of closed restaurants, a sharp decline in french fry consumption and the economic fallout from COVID-19, writes Robert Arnason in the Western Producer. The potential acreage cuts are for process potatoes, which are used to make french fries and other frozen potato products. Process potatoes represent the bulk of potato acres in Canada and the United States.
Developing novel herbicides: Corteva and AgPlenus collaborate to address rise in global weed resistance
Corteva Agriscience and AgPlenus recently announced that they have entered into a multi-year collaboration for the development of novel herbicides. By leveraging their complementary expertise, Corteva and AgPlenus will address the rise of global weed resistance, created in-part by the absence of new modes of action (MoAs) for weed control over the past 30 years. Successful products resulting from the collaboration will enter a multi-billion-dollar market.
“The corona crisis has caused people to go back to basics and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” according to Andrew George, Director of Sales at EarthFresh Foods, based in Canada’s Ontario province. He says people shop for staple items like potatoes that are nutritious, inexpensive and can be stored for much longer than many other fresh produce items. “In addition, consumers are looking for healthy food items to help build their immune system,” George told Marieke Hemmes of FreshPlaza in a recent interview.
The Neumiller family and Sproule Farms has been an enjoyable and productive partnership. Potatoes grown are processing potatoes used for making potato chips and salads. Much of the crop is sent from field to factory to a nearby chip plant. Depending on the time of year, much of the crop goes from the field to a bag of potato chips in as little as 4-24 hours. Get an inside look at the Neumiller- Sproule Farm potato harvest near Bath, Illinois in 2019.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to make its presence known in all facets of daily life, including agriculture. That extends to some supply and demand economics lessons for Northwest apple and potato growers. Some of the largest potato processors in the world are dramatically cutting back their contracted acres with farmers this spring. That’s largely because the global pandemic has closed restaurants, and therefore demand for frozen french fries.
In the fields and barns across America are the stories of farmers — the talented, tenacious stewards of the land who have grown our food for generations. But while agriculture is the foundation of our civilization and the backbone of our nation, the story has only been half-told. According to the 2012 Agriculture Census, more than 280,000 of all primary farm operators are women, and a total of one million women work in the agriculture industry. Their stories have gone untold — until now.
Lamb Weston Holdings, Inc. announced its fiscal third quarter 2020 results. “Our results in the third quarter were mixed,” said Tom Werner, President and CEO. “At this time, despite only two months remaining in our fiscal fourth quarter, we are unable to reasonably forecast frozen potato product demand because of the pandemic’s unpredictable near-term effect on restaurant traffic in North America and our key international markets.”