Idaho processors have cut potato acres under contract for the coming season by roughly 3 percent, officials with Southeast Idaho Potato Cooperative recently learned.
Most affected growers had already made preparations for planting potatoes, such as leasing land, fumigating soil, preparing beds and purchasing seed, prompting SIPCO leaders to worry some extra acres will be planted for the open market.
Any potatoes planted without a contract could hinder the recovery of fresh market prices driven below production costs by a large 2012 crop, said SIPCO Executive Director Dan Hargraves. SIPCO sent members an automated phone message urging them to swallow investments on potato fields without contracts and plant other crops.
"I believe a number of growers won't plant them," Hargraves said. "I hope that all of them don't plant them."
Hargraves said McCain Foods and ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston cut 4,000 acres combined. J.R. Simplot maintained its full acreage. Hargraves said the cuts affected growers in eastern and southcentral Idaho, and most lost contracts on a single pivot. Processors told Hargraves the cuts are in response to flat sales.
"As growers, we wish we could know sooner because we don't want to plant acres they don't want," Hargraves said. "(Processors) cited excess production as being the impediment for moving contract prices in 2013. When cuts are made at the last moment, that can contribute to that very problem."
SOURCE: John O'Connell, Capital Press