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March 2009

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Fast Food Fries

At the Potato Expo meeting in San Antonio in January, one of the presenters brought up an interesting point about the future of potato products at quick-service restaurants. Jeff DeLapp, president of Lamb Weston U.S., presented the state of the processing industry at the conference. More than 90 percent of frozen potato products go to foodservice customers, so that portion of the industry is tied to how well the restaurant industry is doing. Growth in the foodservice segment was strong in 2008, but dropped off in September, and the outlook for 2009 is for no growth in 2009 for quick service and a decline in sales for casual and fine dining restaurants. DeLapp pointed out an interesting thing to happen on fast food menus. Over the last few years, nearly every chain has adopted a “value menu” that allows customers to pick out cheaper items. He…  » Read more

Prices May Hit the Floor Soon

Fertilizer prices spiked during the 2008 growing season, and the market has left manufacturers, dealers and growers in a tight spot. Prices peaked around September and then dropped off as the economy slowed down, leaving dealers holding the bag and growers deciding whether to pre-pay or chance lower prices when the season begins. There were many causes for the market’s instability last year, said Bill Whitaker, president of the agribusiness group of J.R. Simplot Co. One of the key drivers was China. The United States produces between 45 percent and 50 percent of the nitrogen consumed by U.S. growers, with China producing the rest. But the Chinese government wanted to ensure its growers had access to fertilizers, so a 135 percent tariff was slapped on fertilizers. With the industry already operating on 30- to 40-year lows, the removal of Chinese nitrogen drove prices upward. Demands on…  » Read more

Demand Isn’t the Result of Increased Consumption

This year started with tight potato supplies because of reduced acreage throughout the United States of about 8 percent. Weather conditions in some of the potato-producing regions led to reduced yields and short seasons, further tightening the market but resulting in record high prices. The total supply outlook for the 2008 crop is about 10 percent below last year, with Colorado higher and Wisconsin, Idaho and the Columbia Basin with fewer potatoes to ship than last year. Fresh As of Dec. 1, potato stocks were down 25 million cwt., and the pace of fresh movement is unsustainable, said Dave Beesley of Snake River Plains Potatoes in Ucon, Idaho. Beesley presented the 2008/2009 potato supply outlook at the Potato Expo in San Antonio in January. December shipments from Idaho were the highest since 2003 following a weak September and October, which led Idaho to increase carton prices by…  » Read more

Fourth Generation Grower Says Marketing is Industry’s Future

Though Kent Bitter was born and raised on his family’s farm near Shelley, Idaho, it wasn’t until after his first year of college, that he realized he had a special affinity for the land and decided to follow in the footsteps of his pioneer forbearers and become a farmer. “My great-grandfather, Joseph Bitter, started farming near Logan, Utah, and then expanded to Rexburg and Ririe in southeast Idaho,” Bitter recounts. “Then after some bad years of drought, and some hardship, he lost most of his farms when my grandfather, Vern, was 20. After working as a school teacher and saving up some money, Vern eventually bought a farm at Beachs Corner, north of Idaho Falls. Later, he saved enough to apply for a homestead in Tulelake, Calif. He actually drew the second farm allotted on this project. “Some time during World War II, while my father, Harvard, was…  » Read more
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