New processing facility in Idaho increases demand
By DAVE WILKINS
U.S. potato growers increased fall crop plantings this year by about 55,000 acres, and the Pacific Northwest led the way, according to USDA estimates released July 12.
Together, growers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington planted 48,000 more acres of fall crop spuds this year than they did in 2010, the estimates show.
Idaho spud plantings are up an estimated 25,000 acres. Washington growers planted an estimated 20,000 more acres and Oregon growers added about 3,000 acres.
Industry officials say most of the acreage increase in the Northwest will go to the processing market for french fries or dehydrated spuds. Because those acres are contracted, the increase is not expected to have a big impact on the open fresh market.
In Idaho, growers planted an estimated 320,000 acres of spuds, an 8.5 percent increase from last year.
An acreage count conducted earlier this summer by United Potato Growers of Idaho estimated plantings at 319,306 acres. The count also showed that the vast majority of the increase in acres came from Western Idaho and the Magic Valley where most of the state's processing potatoes are grown.
"We feel pretty confident that almost all of those (additional) acres are in areas that are committed to processors," said Britt Raybould, a spokesperson for the co-op.
A new dehydration plant in Heyburn has increased demand for processing potatoes in the Magic Valley, she said.
Growers in Washington state planted an estimated 155,000 acres of spuds, a 15 percent increase from last year. Washington is the nation's largest producer of potatoes for french fries and other frozen processed potato products.
In Oregon, growers planted an estimated 38,500 acres of potatoes, an 8.5 percent increase from 2010.
Spud plantings were up only modestly in other states, and some areas saw slight declines. Colorado farmers, who grow mostly for the fresh market, reduced plantings by an estimated 1,500 acres to 54,000 acres this year. Wisconsin increased plantings by only 500 acres, while Maine boosted plantings by 1,500 acres.
U.S. potato growers have enjoyed a robust market and good prices the past year. In April, U.S. potato farmers were receiving an average of about $15.61 per hundredweight for fresh spuds, nearly twice the amount of a year earlier, according to the USDA.
In Idaho, fresh growers were getting about $10.70 per hundredweight in April compared with just $3.80 per hundredweight in May 2010.