Published online: Jul 02, 2011
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United Potato Growers of America sponsored a conference last week in Bloomington, Minn., to discuss the transition from the summer to fall crop. The meeting was open to all growers and shippers including non-United members.

Bruce Huffaker, publisher of the
North American Potato Market News, and a consultant for the United Potato Growers of America, supplied numbers at the meeting that showed over 51,000 more acres will be planted to potatoes this spring compared to 2010.

This represents a 6.3 percent increase, but many have doubts that all of the acreage will get planted because of unusually cold and wet weather plaguing much of the country including our region. Increases are forecast across the board for fresh, chips, seed and frozen processing.

As of June 8th, an NPPGA survey found that only 67 percent of the fresh crop in the Red River Valley had been planted. Dry weather since then has pushed that number up considerably, but seed quality both planted and unplanted will factor in production. Nearly all of the irrigated crop in the region has been planted.

North American Potato Market NewsHuffaker's projects North Dakota and Minnesota will each increase potato planting by 3,000 acres. This would push North Dakota to 87,000 acres and Minnesota to 47,000. Most of the increase in both states will be for processing. Red River Valley fresh acres will be up about 2 percent according to our own survey.
Idaho will by far and away plant the most potatoes for the fall crop, increasing acres by 30,000, while  Washington will increase acreage by 15,000 acres. Fresh russet potato profitability will be very dependant on the big increase in process contracts in the Northwest being accurate. Any excess could spill over into the fresh market and drag prices down.

Most of the experts feel the additional potatoes planted this spring will find a home. Frozen inventory will be depleted by the time the fall crop comes in, which will be two three weeks later than normal in many areas. Also, yields are expected to be below the trendline due to the slow start the crop is getting in many areas, including the Northern Plains.