Some people believe farmers stand in the way of protecting the environment, but there are growers out there working to preserve the land and the nutrients in it.
A lot of people see farming as a detriment to the environment, and we disagree, said Clen Atchley, a grower in Ashton, Idaho.
The Atchleys Flying A Ranch, owned and operated by Clen and Emma Atchley, is in eastern Idaho at the headwaters of the Snake River. They grow between 800 and 1,000 acres of seed potatoes on their 5,000 acres, and depending on the year, sell between 200,000 and 250,000 sacks of seed potatoes. Their biggest crop is wheat, but the Atchleys also grow canola, alfalfa and grain, and they have a small cattle operation. About 4,500 acres of their land is irrigated.
The Atchleys grow mostly russet potatoes, with the bulk of their crop being Russet
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Organic agriculture is about 2 percent of total U.S. agriculture, and sales of organic produce were about $5.8 billion in 2005. But the market segment is growing, and in 2007 sales from organic produce are predicted to be about $6.5 billion.
Organic potatoes are a small part of the overall U.S. potato harvest, but growers are seeing increased demand that is following the growth in organic produce sales. That demand is from both the fresh market and processing side of the industry.
Here in central Illinois, the demand for organic/locally grown potatoes follows the sharply increased demand for all such vegetables in recent years, said Dave Bishop of Prairierth Farm in Atlanta, Ill. The demand is for specialty/heirloom table stock, such as green mountain, all red, all blue, etc. varieties generally not found in most supermarkets.
Organic potatoes are typically grown on fewer acres than
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Potato growers in Idaho are in for a lot more of the same kind of activities as they enter the 2007 growing season. But growers across the United States may get a greater share of the scrutiny as APHIS both homes in and zooms out in its pursuit of the potato cyst nematode (PCN).
That assessment was made by Wayne Hoffman, assistant to the director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, who has been working on the state side of its cooperative program with USDAs Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Larry Hawkins, the APHIS public information officer working with PCN, said last summer APHIS proposed a program to intensify surveying and expand it beyond Idaho to other states and potato production areas. APHIS proposed that 100 percent of the seed potato fields and 10 percent of the production fields across the United States
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If the last few years are any indication, the potato industry could be in for another good year in 2007. While the retail market is still decreasing and prices have gone through the typically seasonal fluctuations, there are growing opportunities and signs of life on an international level.
The potato industry is a global one, and there are a number of economic forces that are affecting the U.S. industry, making this years market complex, said Bruce Huffaker, president of the North American Potato Market News.
Depending on the layer youre looking at you come up with radically different pictures, he said.
One global trend creating a good environment for growers and marketers is a large international demand for U.S. potatoes. There is a short supply of potatoes in Europe, so many chip processors are importing potatoes from abroad. Potato production in Europe is down 13 percent from last
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