Tommy Fleetwood, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

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Cash for Clunkers

There are many federal programs to help farmers, but a bill that passed the House last week would make it cheaper to buy the most-used farm implements: pick-up trucks and work trucks.

The Cash for Clunkers bill is designed to spur auto sales and increase fuel efficiency, but the proposed guidelines work out to practically free money. New large trucks only have to show an increase of 2 mpg to qualify for a $3,500 voucher, and a 5 mpg increase qualifies for a $4,500 voucher. Work trucks don’t have to show any mileage increase – a trade-in from 2001 or earlier automatically qualifies for a $3,500 voucher because new models run cleaner, according to the writers of the bill.

Trucks and SUVs have been demonized as frivolous expenses and damaging to the environment, but they are important tools for farmers. And like any tool, a grower’s truck wears out and needs to be replaced. Agriculture has helped the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado maintain the No. 1 and No. 2 vehicle sales spots, even during high fuel prices and the implosion of the automotive industry.

Potato growers are always looking for ways to reduce costs on the farm, and a $3,500 to $4,500 discount on one tool is a considerable savings. Plus, that 2 mpg to 5 mpg will save on fuel costs; even if it’s just a little, it adds up over the life of the truck. email

Tommy Fleetwood
North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
With harvest just beginning in North Carolina, how is the crop shaping up?
The crop is looking good. Harvest is just beginning. We have a few farms that have been in harvest for about five days and everyone is either starting or will in the next few days. The markets are looking good and the guys are feeling really good.

How is harvest progressing?
They’ve had substantial rainfall and not too much to set the crop up to a good stage to get to harvest. Everything has sized up well and the good market has made things look good for them.

Will the losses in Florida from rain affect the North Carolina crop?
It’s unfortunate for the Florida growers, but it’s probably beneficial for the guys here and growers harvesting elsewhere. Just because of the lower supply out there, there will be a greater demand for those areas that are harvesting.

Did acreage change in North Carolina this season?
Acreage is probably about stable to what it has been the last couple of years. Just because of the markets, acreage has been pretty stable on the East Coast. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 acres. That’s about 75 percent chips and the rest fresh. The fresh market potatoes are Round Red, Round White and Yukons, mostly.

The chip growers that grow for Frito Lay are growing Frito Lay varieties of course, but Atlantic is the main variety other than the Frito Lay varieties. And there are a few Snowdens, but mainly Atlantics. TEXT


Market Report

Market Report Potato shipments are moving from storage in the major potato producing regions and from spring crops in California and Florida.Top shipping states for the week of June 6, in order, were Idaho, Colorado, Kern district of California, Washington/Oregon and Florida, according to USDA’s National Shipping Point Trends. Shipments from North Carolina are expected to start this week as harvest winds down in Florida.

Idaho is shipping almost all Russet Burbanks in early June, with Russet Norkotah accounting for only 2 percent of shipments. Total movement was about 611,000 cwt. and expected to remain the same. In May, Idaho shipped 2.47 million cwt., a 6 percent decrease from last year. Prices for five 10-pound film bags were $4-$4.50, while 50-pound cartons of 40- to 80-count were trading around $11-11.50.

Colorado movement increased slightly the first week of June to 370,000 cwt. For the month of May, Colorado shipped 1.47 million cwt., about 200,000 cwt. more than last year but only slightly more than 2007. Russet Norkotahs in 40- to 80-count 50-pound cartons were trading around $9-$10.50, while bailed five 10-pound bags were trading at $5-$5.50.

The Kern County, Calif., harvest is underway and shipments are expected to increase this week, although size is small and yields are light in early Russet Burbank fields, according to USDA. In May, the Kern district shipped almost 800,000 cwt., a decrease of more than 200,000 cwt. from last year but slightly higher than 2007. Round red potatoes in 50-pound cartons were trading at $10 for As and $12 for Bs, long whites were trading at $14-$16 for As and $10 for Bs, and yellows were trading at $16-$18 for As and $10 for Bs.

The Columbia Basin shipped 170,000 cwt. the first week of June, and 843,000 cwt. in the entire month of May, a decrease of almost 300,000. Prices for Russet Norkotahs in 40- to 80-count 50-pound cartons were generally $10-$12.

The Florida harvest is winding down, so shipments from the area are expected to decrease. In early June, growers in Florida shipped 130,000 cwt., but quality varied due to a large amount of rain in the growing areas. Shipments for the month of May were off 15 percent from last year, at 695,000 cwt.

May shipments from other potato producing states were: 457,000 cwt. from Wisconsin (a 9 percent decrease from 2008), 266,000 cwt. from Minnesota/North Dakota (up from 177,000 cwt. in 2008 but lower than the 330,000 cwt. shipped in 2007), 204,000 from the Klamath Basin (up from 177,000 cwt. last year but slightly lower than 2007) and 126,000 cwt. from Nebraska (down from 405,000 cwt. in 2008 and 303,000 cwt. in 2007).

North Carolina and Virginia have just started harvest or will this week, and the crop is expected to be in good condition, with shipments from the area beginning next week.

Seed potato shipments this season from Idaho were up about 3 percent, to 6.5 million cwt. Montana seed shipments, at 2.6 million cwt., were on par with last season, as were Red River Valley seed shipments at 1.9 million cwt. Wisconsin has shipped nearly 1.6 million cwt. of seed potatoes, a 15 percent increase from last season.


Mydin Hypermarket Ready-To-Eat

PICTURE Mydin Hypermarket in Malaysia has introduced specialty cuts of U.S. potatoes into its Ready-To-Eat (RTE) counters: U.S. Tater Gems, Tater Bucks and Savory Loops, according to the U.S. Potato Board.

Mydin’s RTE section is gaining popularity due to its wide range of local fried food products, but this is the first time for any U.S. potato products in the section. A training program was conducted for the staff in the RTE section prior to the launch, and this helped provide staff with the confidence to handle U.S. frozen potatoes.

Based on the success of the initial launch, Mydin has now added Fiesta Wedges and Steak Fries to the RTE section, bringing the total to five U.S. specialty cuts. Mydin operates five hypermarkets in Malaysia, all with extensive RTE counters. There are plans to open more outlets, including the biggest hypermarket outlet in Malaysia.