An expected surplus of potatoes from Idaho has made the outlook for Washington's fresh potatoes dismal.
Prices have been depressed even though growers still are digging up potatoes and are past the height of the harvest season.
Washington's processed potatoes, which represent about 88 percent of the crop, are doing well, said Dale Lathim, executive director for the Potato Growers of Washington and the United Fresh Potato Growers of Washington & Oregon. Those are under contract, he said.But the state's fresh potatoes-those that head to grocery stores and restaurants instead of processors-are subject to the whims of the marketplace, he said.
The combination of Idaho growers planting too many acres and that state expecting its second-best yield has increased the supply of fresh potatoes, Lathim said."They dominate the fresh industry," he said.
Nationwide, Washington grows the second-largest volume of potatoes, accounting for about 21 percent of total U.S. production, according to the Washington State Potato Commission. Idaho grows the most at 28 percent.
Franklin County has about 33,000 acres of potatoes, while Benton County grows about 27,000 acres, according to the USDA.
The potato industry generates $4.6 billion for the state economy and creates 23,500 jobs, according to the commission.
The USDA estimated that there was a significant increase in potato acreage this year, mostly coming from Idaho, said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission. Washington acreage was up, but that was based on what processors asked for.
Voigt said growers still don't know exactly how many tons of potatoes were produced this year, and won't until November.
SOURCE: Kristi Pihl, Tri-City Herald
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