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Snowpack, Supply, Something Else

As I write this column in early February, I look out my window and see that the slight snowstorm from two days ago has melted away. That's the way this entire winter has been here in Idaho and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

A little snow here and there, a few days of bitter arctic cold air dropping down, uninvited, to stay for too long, and then just cold and overcast.

It's been an El Nino winter and the lack of accumulating snowpack has growers a little anxious throughout the northwest.

A grower from the Klamath Basin I spoke with expressed alarm at the lack of snowpack in his area. They need some big storms to come through during the next two months.

Two days ago was Groundhog Day and the news from Punxsutawney, Pa., was that Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter.

So be it, if that means greater snowpack, we'll take it. Here in Pocatello, other than a couple of arctic cold snaps, the winter has been relatively mild with very little snow to show for the cold, the short days and long nights.

Fortunately, for eastern Idaho growers, the Upper Snake River basin had good carryover from last year and the 2010 water year is beginning to look up.

The entire month of January was a hectic time of traveling and conferences. From Orlando to Pocatello to Kennewick – farmers congregating and commiserating on the current returns and the outlook for 2010.

There was a lot of grumbling at all the conferences, from growers concerned about not only the present market conditions for potatoes but for the current economic conditions for the nation.

For a potato farmer, that's nothing new. Every year it's something else.

If it's not a water shortage, it's an over supply of potatoes, higher cost of inputs, contracts being pulled back, acreage reduced or being hit by late blight.

And yet, through it all, despite the grumbling and the pessimistic forecasts, what I heard from the growers I spoke with was the positive, “we'll get through this tempest if we manage to bring production in line with demand.”

Originally posted Monday, Mar. 29, 2010

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