IDAHO FALLS — Idaho potato growers planted fewer tubers than last year, making that statistic the best news of the annual U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual planted acreage report.
Not only was acreage down but it was much lower than many analysts were anticipating, said Paul Patterson, University of Idaho extension economist. According to the report, growers cut acres by 28,000 or 8.1 percent compared to last year’s 345,000 planted acres.
“I didn’t think growers would cut more than 20,000 acres,” he said.
Nationally, potato growers planted an estimated 1.08 million acres of potatoes, down 6 percent from 2012. A late spring in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin delayed planting in those states and contributed to the acreage reduction. Wet conditions in Maine also stalled crop development and prevented growers from completing planting. However, sharply lower market prices also prompted growers to look at alternative crops.
Patterson was also surprised by the sharp increase in alfalfa acreage this spring. Strong hay prices hadn’t been enough to lure growers into planting more alfalfa the last few years, but this year was the charm. Growers seeded 90,000 more alfalfa acres, up 6.7 percent compared to last year.
Idaho barley growers continue to go against trend. Nationwide, barley acres have been eroding steadily while acreage has increased the last few years in Idaho. Idaho planted 30,000 more acres to barley this year bringing the total 640,000 acres, up 5 percent over last year.
“It is a strong number for barley,” said Kelly Olson, administrator of the Idaho Barley Commission, “and in line with our projections.”
Improved crop insurance and a growing food barley market are helping make barley more competitive with other small grains in the Gem State. That hasn’t been true in other areas of the country where disease issues have also hurt malt quality. Nationwide, growers planted 155,000 fewer acres than a year ago. Much of that decline came in North Dakota which planted 270,000 fewer acres of barley this year.
Idaho growers often look to North Dakota for price trends in key commodities. North Dakota and Idaho are both among the top producing states of barley, spring wheat, dry edible beans and sugarbeets.
Many Idaho bean growers were afraid that the late spring would force their counterparts in North Dakota to plant less barley and spring wheat, and more dry edible beans. While barley and spring wheat acres are indeed down, North Dakota growers planted corn rather than dry edible beans. North Dakota planted 510,000 acres of dry beans, down from 710,000 acres last year. Corn acres, on the other hand, were up 8 percent over last year’s record high of 3.6 million acres.
That should be good news for Idaho bean growers even though they also reduced their planted acres by 20,000 acres. A bumper crop of dry beans last year softened prices across the nation.
Alfalfa 1.15 million acres 1.04 million acres
Barley 640,000 acres 610,000 acres
Canola 40,000 acres 38,000 acres
Corn 350,000 acres 360,000 acres
Dry edible beans 125,000 acres 145,000 acres
Durum wheat 5,000 acres 13,0000 acres
Potatoes 317,000 acres 345,000 acres
Spring wheat 550,000 acres 520,000 acres
All wheat 1.325 million acres 1.313 million acres
Sugarbeets 175,000 acres 185,000 acres
SOURCE: USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service