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Bill Schaefer Managing Editor

Was your return on investment for your 2010 potato crop:

A) Above average
B) Average
C) Below Average

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Senator Debbie Stabenow was in Northern Michigan June 3 to emphasize the importance of agriculture on our economy. As the new...
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The Board of Directors of McCain Foods Limited appointed Dirk Van de Put as president and CEO and a director of the...
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Three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton has been named the spokesperson for Wisconsin potatoes. Favor Hamilton, a native of...
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Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers
Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers

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School Meal Plan updates

USDA's proposed changes to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) continue to generate strong debate among legislators in Washington, D.C., and are creating a buzz in the national media.

The proposed changes in the NSLP and the SBP programs include a limitation of one cup a week on starchy vegetables, lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes. USDA estimates that the proposal will result in increased costs of $6.8 billion over five years to schools.

On May 31, the House appropriations committee approved a bill to fund agricultural programs for fiscal year 2012. The bill, approved in subcommittee and scheduled for consideration by the House of Representatives on June 15, instructs USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to propose a new meal plan that does not increase the costs for the NSLP and the SBP.

USDA received more than 150,000 comments during the 90-day public comment period that ended on April 13.

John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO, appeared on Fox & Friends on May 17. You can view the segment at

On the same day, the Wall Street Journal published an article that focused on the additional costs schools face in making the changes and featured quotes from nutritionists in Idaho and Maine.

Maine's Senator Olympia Snowe sent letters to First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Vilsack criticizing the USDA's plan and seeking the first lady's and Vilsack's assistance in correcting the faults of the current proposal.

Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, attacked the proposal for its increased costs and the "scapegoating" of lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes in the fight against childhood obesity.

You can read Snowe's comments here, and Schmidt's comments here.

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Frozen stocks decline

The continued decline in frozen potato stocks could result in record low levels in freezer inventories, according to Bruce Huffaker's North American Potato Market News.

Frozen stocks declined 17 million pounds in April. The total inventory of 1.07 billion pounds on April 30 represents a 2.3 percent decline from a year ago. According to Huffaker's report, the total inventory represents just under a 36 day inventory.

Though the numbers indicate a tight supply margin, Huffaker suspects that USDA has underestimated the total number of potatoes available to fryers in its May 1 potato stocks report.

On a positive note, frozen potato consumption increased by 1.5 percent in April. This represents a continuing increase with increased usage of 3.3 percent since December.

Frozen stock inventories in the Columbia Basin and Idaho could be larger than USDA reports. According to Huffaker, supplies will be tight and the margin of error is very narrow to meet processing demand in July. This could result in some shortages and a demand for limited harvest to begin the first week of July to keep the processing plants running.

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Lockwood Harvester

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Lockwood Manufacturing

Lockwood Manufacturing recently announced the addition of the 574 Harvester to its line of potato equipment. The Lockwood 574 Harvester is a lightweight machine that improves visibility and increases capacity.

The harvester is designed with a range of features and options:

  • Dual Blower System: Comes equipped with two Crary fans, providing the most balanced airflow in the industry, according to Lockwood.
  • Lightweight Frame: The wheel out design of this harvester, allows for a shorter and lower profile machine; reducing bruising and enhancing stability in all soil conditions. The lightweight frame design also provides improved visibility.
  • Increase Capacity: The 42-inch rear cross and side elevator can gently handle up to 12 rows of potatoes with ease. Operators can choose from 35- or 42-inch wide booms.
  • Control System: The 574 Harvester come standard with return to center steering, return to depth dig, joy stick boom control and built in rear cross alarm.

For more information, call 800-247-7335 or visit the Lockwood website at

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