Idaho Ag Bounced Back after Tough Start to 2020

Published online: Feb 23, 2021 Articles Joe Parris
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Source: KTVB

An Idaho potato farmer gave away thousands of free potatoes last spring. The early months of the pandemic heavily impacted food supply chains, leaving agriculture operations with nowhere to sell.

There was fear that sights like a huge pile of unsold potatoes would set the tone for a backbreaking 2020.

“Things kind of turned around just in time for things to improve ... heading into the summer,” says Ryan Cranney, CEO of Cranney Farms in Oakley.

A majority of Cranney’s product goes into foodservice to become french fries. As states opened up throughout 2020, business started to really improve for him.

“All of a sudden, things picked up and sales were filling the pipeline," Cranney says . "That was the one good thing, they had to refill those food pipelines after the supply chain got emptied out, those pipes were empty. It took a pretty good amount to get those filled again so that was a good shot in the arm."

It wasn’t just good news for Idaho potatoes. According to a report compiled by a team at the University of Idaho, agriculture in the Gem State is projected to see a record year after all the numbers settle.

In fact, the University of Idaho report showed cash receipts of crops and livestock in 2020 are projected to be $8.5 billion, the second-highest on record, just below the record set in 2014. Milk cash receipts, Idaho’s leading agricultural commodity, increased by an estimated 2%. Cash receipts for Idaho’s largest crop, potatoes, increased by 13%.

That data is impressive considering that many operations elected to cut back on how much they would plant so they wouldn’t have a huge surplus if supply chains remained unstable. 

“We really ended up having a fantastic harvest. The yields were probably as good as we’ve ever seen across almost all crops,” Cranney said. “We ended up with almost the same amount of product as we normally would because of yields. Not quite, but close.”