Idaho’s ‘Crunch’ Won’t Go Away

Published online: May 02, 2002
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Growers in southern Idaho, faced with severe contract cutbacks by Simplot, are scrambling with eastern Idaho growers to find homes for already planted or soon-to-be planted potatoes and whose going to cut back to make up the difference.

Simplot has reportedly cut some 15,000 acres, most in southern Idaho’s Burley/Rupert area.

Growers, who were planting or had ground ready to plant appear unable or unwilling to let inputs of up to several hundred dollars an acre stop them from planting potatoes, despite loss of contracts.

Simplot has reportedly come back to the Southern Idaho Potato Co-op and agreed to reinstate about one million cwt. Nonpareil of Blackfoot, ID, a packer/processor, has also reportedly agreed to pick up 500,000 cwt.

Even if these reports are correct, it will barely soften the blow to growers who had all or a large percentage of their contracts cut.

Growers, upset at the turn of events, have reportedly been turning Simplot Soilbuilder’s fertilizer division trucks away at the gate. This boomerang effect has Simplot pleading to growers to understand its side of the industry-wide oversupply situation.

McCain Foods will not be able to pick up additional volume because everything had been contracted. While McCain is pleased with the quality of potatoes it is receiving at its Burley, ID, plant, it must watch capacity and volume as well.

That leaves several smaller processors and fresh-packers in the area, most of which have precontracted and have no room for excess capacity.

It is believed that SIPCO has no legal avenues and that growers without contracts, seed in the ground or in storages waiting to be planted, must take what they can get this year. One grower reportedly decided that despite putting $20,000 into his unplanted potato acres, he would rather take the loss than put more expense into a crop and suffer possibly greater losses from a glutted market next winter.