Keeping Their Cool

Farm Service Agency’s farm storage facility loan program helps protect spuds

Published online: Aug 31, 2017 Articles Chad Bybee, County Executive Director & Dana Rogge, FSA Public Affairs Specialist
Viewed 763 time(s)

This article appears in the September 2017 issue of Potato Grower.

Mashed, baked, scalloped or fried, the potato is one of America’s favorite side items. This hearty dish has delicate beginnings, and it is the job of Miles Brothers Farm in Grace, Idaho, to ensure the proper storage of their seed potatoes so these baby spuds can flourish into healthy plants.

David and Everett Miles are a part of a multi-generational seed potato farm located in the Gem Valley of southeastern Idaho. The Miles brothers raise three varieties of seed potatoes—Sheopody, Russet Burbank and Ranger Russet—which are shipped to commercial growers in Washington, Oregon, and across southern Idaho.

Seed potatoes require proper storage with temperature and humidity control to preserve quality and prevent sprouting. The Miles brothers start harvesting their potatoes in mid-September. When the potatoes come out of the field, the Mileses have to make the potatoes go dormant, a process they describe as “putting them to sleep,” until the potatoes are ready to be shipped for planting in late February or early March.

“You can’t fool potatoes; they are spot-on,” says David Miles. “When it warms up, they’ll grow. The challenge is keeping them from a yo-yo effect. If you have fluctuation up, they’ll break dormancy, and you’ll have problems.”

The Miles brothers in the past have had older potato cellars used for storage, but they were unable to pile the seed too high or wide due to the lack of a good air system. These older facilities made it difficult to keep a consistent temperature. In order to better manage their temperature and humidity challenges, the Mileses saw the benefit of building an upgraded cellar using Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program.

The FSFL program provides low-interest financing for producers to build or upgrade facilities to store eligible commodities. Qualified facilities include grain bins, hay barns and cold storage facilities, and loans can be used to purchase portable (new or used) structures, equipment and storage, and handling trucks.

The new Miles potato cellar can store up to 60,000, 100-pound sacks of potatoes. The new storage facility has helped the Miles brothers ensure optimum ventilation and climate conditions for their seed potato crop. David Miles says the quality of product they are able to achieve with their new cellar makes it a worthwhile investment.

“They [seed potatoes] come out of storage just like they went in,” Miles says. “I don’t think we have any shrinkage these days.”

For more information about FSA’s Farm Storage Facility Loan program, growers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office or visit www.fsa.usda.gov