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November / December 2007

November / December 2007
  • Facing an Energy Crisis
  • Seed Potato Acres The top varieties of seed potatoes by acreage saw some big gains and some big losses in 2007. More than 300 varieties of seed potatoes were certified, but more than 70 percent of the total acreage approved was dedicated to the top 20 varieties.
  • Standardized Seed Certification Seed certification agencies throughout the United States are working toward an agreement that will make marketing potatoes internationally easier.
  • Western Potatoes: Employee Owned dAlliance, Neb., may best be known for Carhenge, a tourist spot featuring old cars stacked to look like the United Kingdom?s Stonehenge. But the small town in western Nebraska also is home to the state?s largest seed potato grower.
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Facing an Energy Crisis

As I write this column, the futures market for a barrel of crude oil is expected to top $100, surpassing the $95 inflation-adjusted cost in 1980. In 1999, oil futures hit a low price of $11, but have steadily increased since then – in fact, there has been a three-fold increase in the last four years. Americans will mostly feel this price increase at the gas pumps and when their heating bills arrive this winter. With fuel currently hovering around $3 per gallon, another increase will have many seeing red – literally and figuratively. But the effects of high oil prices will be great on fresh-cut processors and the produce industry as a whole. The chemicals that protect and nourish the crops are created with petrochemical inputs, as are the tanks and hoses that hold and spray the chemicals. Trucks that ship produce from the West Coast…  » Read more

Total acres, top varieties decline

The top varieties of seed potatoes by acreage saw some big gains and some big losses in 2007. More than 300 varieties of seed potatoes were certified, but more than 70 percent of the total acreage approved was dedicated to the top 20 varieties. Total acreage declined overall to 109,168 acres, a 4 percent decrease that brings the total acreage close to 2005 levels. Those top 20 for 2007 are Russet Burbank, Norland, Russet Norkotah and Norkotah selections, Atlantic, Shepody, Yukon Gold, Red LaSoda, Alturas, Rio Grande Russet, French Fingerling, Snowden, Superior, Western Russet, Goldrush, Dakota Pearl, Canela Russet, Centennial Russet and CalWhite. Russet Burbank continues to be the most planted variety, nearly four times the second-most planted variety. Russet Burbank saw a slight decrease of 6 percent, bringing the total acreage of the variety to 28,188 acres. The bulk of the Russet Burbank acres were…  » Read more

MOU will help market export potatoes

Seed certification agencies throughout the United States are working toward an agreement that will make marketing potatoes internationally easier. The State National Harmonization Program Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is an agreement between state seed potato certification agencies and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Plant Protection and Quarantine. The purpose of the document is to establish a baseline for seed potatoes grown in the United States so that all seed potatoes exported meet the same standards. “It will make things easier for export,” said Amy Charkowski, assistant professor of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Right now, we keep complicated tables of what other states are doing.” The MOU doesn’t eliminate the need for states to certify seed grown there and, in fact, the state guidelines often are more stringent than the harmonization standards. But the MOU does identify six uniform requirements that…  » Read more

More than two dozen have ownership in Nebraska’s largest seed-potato company

Alliance, Neb., may best be known for Carhenge, a tourist spot featuring old cars stacked to look like the United Kingdom’s Stonehenge. But the small town in western Nebraska also is home to the state’s largest seed potato grower. The state isn’t known for its potatoes – it’s the Cornhusker State for a reason – but in Box Butte County there are about 6,000 acres of potatoes, and Western Potatoes Inc., grows about one-third of them. The company farms on about 2,000 acres in the Alliance area, plus an additional 400 acres in Garden City, Kan., and 1,200 acres in northeastern Colorado. Western Potatoes is employee owned, with about 25 people controlling shares in the company. An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is commonly used as a benefit to employees, who typically don’t purchase stocks outright. An ESOP is a way to motivate and reward workers, and…  » Read more
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