Well, if there's one thing that jumps off the pages of this year's Spudman survey it's the wide range of responses for how growers fared in the 2011 season.
Seems as if almost everyone started with a cold, wet spring and while some reported a "good growing season" or "good field, good quality." Just as many reported "terrible, wet spring, couldn't plant ‘til May ... Two hurricanes and about 20-plus inches of rain ... we may not get to finish digging these potatoes" or even worse "our potato crop was a total loss" and another third reported an "average" crop.
It was that kind of a year across the nation and this was reflected in Spudman's third annual industry survey.
A clear majority of respondents come from the fresh sector, with just over 92 percent, 39.9 percent grow for the frozen sector, 44 percent in the chip sector, 52 percent grow seed and 29.4 percent grow for the dehy market.
Grower concerns for the 2012 season seem to center around over planting, rising input costs, quality and quantity of seed and climate conditions. Specifically, growers complained about the seeming trend toward cold, wet springs that have been hampering planting conditions during recent years.
Given the concerns over seed it's not surprising that 20 percent of respondents are planning on increasing their seed acreage in 2012. A little disconcerting is the revelation that 16.7 percent of the fresh sector growers are planning on increasing their acreage in the coming year. That may be offset by the 14.8 percent of growers planning on reducing their acres.
Chip growers are planning on increasing their acreage by 11.1 percent, not surprising given the current shortages in the chip sector.
The top three varieties were: Russet Burbank, Yukon Gold and Norland.
Our pool of growers indicated that their average cost per acre of potatoes was $2,272.88 and their average profit per acre was $1,153.16. They spend 189,164.04 annually for crop protection products and $110,088.88 on equipment.
Except for GPS systems planned equipment purchases are down slightly for the coming year from last year, but not a significantly.
In the coming year 33 percent on purchasing GPS systems, up from last year's figure of 24 percent. Evidence that farmers are seeing value in the GPS technology.
Another indicator of the acceptance of technology on the farm is the 9.8 percent jump seen in mobile and smartphones use as well as an 8 percent increase in text message updates.
More than a 58 percent are planning on purchasing a new or used general-use tractor, a figure just under last years total of 60 percent. Planned purchases of potato handling equipment is down 4.5 percent at 37.5 percent, harvesters, down 6 percent at 18 percent and irrigation equipment down 7 percent at 32 percent.
Probably the most positive statistic in the survey is the fact that 31.6 percent of growers are planning on purchasing land in the coming year. An increase of 6.1 percent from last year's survey. An indicator that U.S. agriculture is holding its own in this economy and that growers are making an investment in their future by securing the means to extend their operations in the future.
— By Bill Schaefer, managing editor