Spud growers reduce acreage on heels of big crop, low prices | capitalpress.com

Potato growers in the Northwest and throughout the U.S. have significantly reduced their acreage this season following a 2012 crop marked by overproduction and low prices, according to a USDA report released June 28.

Furthermore, potatoes prices have risen sharply during the past two weeks.

Idaho grower’s reduced their crop from 345,000 acres in 2012 to 317,000 this season. Growers in Washington cut their crop from 165,000 acres in 2012 to 160,000 acres this season, and Oregon growers, 42,000 acres in 2012, planted 40,000 acres this season. California growers increased slightly from 8,800 acres in 20123 to 9,000 acres in 2012.

Nationally, the fall potato crop was reduced from 1,001,700 acres in 2012 to 957,400 acres this season.

Dan Hargraves, executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, said the reduction was 5,000 to 10,000 acres greater than he anticipated. He’s confident that data in the National Agricultural Statistics Service is accurate because it utilizes physical acreage counts of every Idaho field, as well as in other major potato production areas, conducted by United Potato Growers of America.

“I think (Idaho) growers did the right thing. Not only did they take out what the increase was last year, but they took out another 5,000 acres on top of that,” Hargraves said.

Growers also recently received news about inventories of the 2012 crop. Prices of 10-pound bags of medium-sized Idaho potatoes, which were mostly $3.50 to $4 at the start of June, are now mostly $6.50 to $7.50, according to USDA’s Market News Service.

“I think it really blew everyone away,” Hargraves said of the price increase. “It shows it was unwarranted to sell that crop at that low of a price. The market has finally recognized the true stocks on hand, and that’s represented in the price increase.”

Hargraves said this year’s crop of spuds appears to be in excellent condition and on track to have high quality.