Leaders of two potato organizations have advised growers their best options for any unclaimed potatoes this season may be to sell them as cattle feed or to leave them in the field for the fertilizer value.
Dan Hargraves, who represents processed growers in negotiations as executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, said McCain Foods and J.R. Simplot Co. recently indicated they won't buy potatoes in excess of the overages specified in their contracts. The processors are required to purchase up to 3 percent of their growers' production in excess of contracted volumes.
With a large 2012 crop likely, Hargraves also anticipates the fresh and dehydrated markets will be saturated. He noted fertilizer costs have risen sharply, and leaving small spuds in fields could pay dividends as a nutrient source.
On Sept. 20, Hargraves left a recorded message on members' voicemails advising them to contact field men with processors and make decisions about overages promptly rather than "waiting until everyone else gets the same unwelcome news."
Hargraves said record-high feed prices place a floor under the potato market and a means of clearing the current crop prior to next season.
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press