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 potatoes this year than they did in 2010, the estimates show. Idaho 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 dehy. 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 potatoes, 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 United 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 process 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 dehy 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 potatoes, a 15 percent increase from last year. In Oregon, growers planted an estimated 38,500 acres of potatoes, an 8.5 percent increase from 2010. Colorado growers, 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.
In April, U.S. growers were receiving an average of about $15.61 per cwt for fresh potatoes, nearly twice the amount of a year earlier, according to the USDA. In Idaho, fresh growers were getting about $10.70 per cwt in April compared with just $3.80 per cwt in May 2010.
-Source, Dave Wilkins, Capital Press