Officials representing Idaho potato growers in contract negotiations with processors say a top priority has been recouping increased chemical costs to protect fields from zebra chip, a new disease to the region.
Uncertainty surrounding zebra chip, including when and where it may surface, has added to the challenge, said Dan Hargraves, executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative.
In 2012, Hargraves estimates growers spent from $80 in eastern Idaho to $150 in Magic Valley due to zebra chip, though contracts included no compensation for disease management.
"We don't know what is going to happen in 2013," Hargraves said. "The crux of the problem is that nobody knows what kind of disease pressure we're going to have this coming year. Certainly nobody forecast how severe it would be last year."
SIPCO anticipates negotiations will conclude by mid-February.
Zebra chip, which degrades potatoes with bands that darken when fried, is caused by a bacteria spread by potato psyllids. It first arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2011.
SOURCE: John O’Connell, Capital Press