`CRAZY' MARKET SPURS EARLY DIGS IN WI

Published online: Aug 08, 2013 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting David Mitchell, The Packer
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In a typical year, potato growers who start digging their crop too soon give up some of their potential yield by harvesting immature spuds. But growers who wait this year may miss out on unheard-of prices.
"There are guys killing russets now," Mike Carter, chief executive officer of Rosholt, Wis.-based Bushmans' Inc., said July 30 of the step growers take before harvesting that sets the potato's skin. Some Wisconsin growers are killing potato plants-a process that diverts the plant's energy to growing the potatoes.
"Digging early sacrifices yield, but the market is high enough that they're starting now anyway. It's not a full-blown harvest, but some of our partners should be ready soon."
The USDA did not have a price for Wisconsin potatoes available in its July 30 report, but the same day Bob Johnson, sales manager for Katz Produce Sales, Plover, Wis., said 50-pound bags of size B reds were going for as much as $27-29 in Wisconsin.
"I've never seen prices this high before," he said. "It's not unusual at this time of year to see $10-15 on Bs, but I've never seen $29 before."
Johnson said there soon would be more reds available from Wisconsin, but there also were areas like North Carolina and Southern California that were finishing up their seasons. Furthermore, sizes in Wisconsin likely will be getting bigger as harvest progresses, which means less Bs.
"The market for Bs could actually be higher 10 days from now," he said. "Prices are high and changing by the hour. It's the craziest potato market I've ever seen."

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