Published online: Jul 17, 2012 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting
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Growers across the country have increased fall potato acreage by nearly 5 percent over last year, according to a report released July 11 by the USDA.

Throughout the U.S., potato growers planted about 1.15 million acres in all four seasons of the 2012 crop year and about 1 million acres for the fall crop, both up about 5 percent from 2011.

According to the report, Idaho growers have planted 345,000 potato acres, up 25,000 acres from 2011. It's their largest crop since 2007. Washington growers planted their largest crop since 2000 at 165,000 acres, up from 160,000 acres. Oregon growers increased planting by 1,000 acres at 41,000 acres. California acres planted 8,500 acres, down by 100 acres from 2011.

The report shows 73 percent of the U.S. crop was planted in Russets, which represented 91 percent of the Idaho crop.

Leaders with United Potato Growers of Idaho have warned increased acreage combined with a return to trend-line yield-which accounts for the tendency of production to gradually increase from year to year due to improvements in farming practices-could lead to a large crop and reduced prices.

The organization has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday morning to discuss the crop size.

Dan Hargraves, executive director for the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, believes the increase in fall production is manageable.

"The Idaho number looks like it could be challenging, but we've seen a rebound in demand for frozen, which has driven some aggressive run schedules by the fryers, and dehydrated demand has been strong for the entire previous crop year. I fully expect that to continue. I think there's an opportunity there without a doubt to find a home for some of those extra acres," Hargraves said. "Acres are only half of the equation. It really does come back to yield."

Kevin Stanger, with Wada Farms in Eastern Idaho, said the crop is manageable. "It doesn't sound like it's too outrageous."

University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson anticipated an increase in potato acres but admits he was surprised by the size of the Idaho increase.

"My guess on Idaho was about 10,000 acres fewer than USDA indicated we'd planted," Patterson said.

SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press