Aug 1, 2005
Potato Acreage Lowest on Record, USDA Says

The USDA Agriculture Statistics Board reported that U.S. potato growers have planted a record low acreage. “Potato growers across the United States have planted an estimated 1.11 million acres of potatoes in all four seasons this year, down 7 percent from last year and the lowest since 1866 when record keeping began,” USDA said.

USDA cited three factors at work reducing acreage: economic pressures, industry acreage reduction programs and inclement weather at planting.

“We are pleased with the USDA report,” said Jerry Wright, United Potato Growers of America CEO. “Part of the 7 percent decline in acreage is a result of United’s business plan, part of which was executed this spring through an acreage bid buy-down program. Economic conditions and poor weather in growing areas of the U.S. and Canada also contributed to the acreage reduction.”

Although acreage is down, Wright said he was confident there will be enough potatoes to fill demand.

“According to United States Potato Board research, consumption has been on a decline since the 1980s, he said. “Meanwhile, growers have continued to over-supply the market. Growers are selling potatoes for less than the cost of production, losing equity in their business and some are simply going bankrupt.”

USDA numbers indicate that potato acreage for fall harvest was down 7 percent from last year, summer potato production was forecast down 12 percent, winter production was up 5 percent and spring production down 20 percent. Most of the total crop is produced in the fall.

Acres planted were down across all production areas.

Western states potato acreage was estimated at 606,200 acres planted, down 6 percent from last year and 9 percent below 2003. Planting was delayed in most western states due to wet conditions.

Idaho growers dropped their planted acreage 7 percent from last year, the lowest planted acreage for Idaho since 1986. Washington producers pulled back 4 percent from a year ago. Colorado growers voluntarily reduced acreage 10 percent this year for both water conservation and economic reasons. Planted acres in Oregon dropped 5 percent, due in part to the closure of a processing plant in the Columbia Basin. California’s fall potato acres are down 5 percent and Nevada’s acres decreased 18 percent. Planted acres for Montana are up 3 percent. Acres are up 2 percent from 2004 for New Mexico’s potato acres.

Central States planted an estimated 273,600 acres of fall potatoes this year, down 6 percent from last year and 18 percent below two years ago. Cool, wet weather slowed planting in most central states. North Dakota’s planted acreage decreased 14 percent and is the lowest since 1952. Planted acres dropped 9 percent in Nebraska, 3 percent in Ohio, and 2 percent in Minnesota from a year ago. Michigan and Wisconsin growers planted the same acreage as last year.

Growers in eastern states planted an estimated 90,600 acres of fall potatoes, down 8 percent from last year and 14 percent below 2003. Maine’s planted acreage is estimated at 55,500 acres, down 13 percent from last year. Planted potato acreage in Pennsylvania is down 4 percent, while producers in New York planted 3 percent more acres. Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s planted acreages are unchanged from 2004. Cool, wet spring weather delayed planting and has slowed crop progress but crop quality is expected to be good in these New England states.

Production of summer potatoes is forecast at 16.2 million cwt, a 12 percent decrease from a year ago. If realized, this would be a record low production since the series began in 1949, six percent below the previous record low set in 1980. Harvest is expected from a record low acreage of 49,100 acres, 9 percent below last year, the previous record low. Eight of the 11 summer potato states expect smaller crops than they had last year but the potato crops in two states are larger. Maryland growers expect the summer potato crop to be unchanged from last year.

Illinois production is expected to be down 27 percent from last year, followed by Colorado with a decrease of 17 percent. Delaware’s summer potato crop forecast is down 16 percent, while California expects a 14 percent loss from 2004. Virginia producers are expecting a 10 percent decrease in production, while Texas is expecting an 8 percent drop, and growers in New Jersey and Kansas expect 3 percent and 2 percent decreases, respectively. A larger potato crop is expected in Alabama, with a 12 percent increase.

Expectations in Missouri are up 1 percent despite an 8 percent decrease in harvested acres. Missouri’s yield is forecast at 340 cwt per acre, 30 cwt above last season. If realized, this would equal the record high yield of 2001.

Crop conditions in Texas are good and harvest is expected to start in August. East coast States have had nearly ideal conditions for vine and tuber development. In Alabama, rain delayed planting while insect pressures and unfavorable weather are expected to reduce the quality of the crop. Colorado summer potato development continues to be behind schedule due to planting delays caused by uncertainty in irrigation water but the crop condition is mostly good to fair. Wet conditions in California delayed planting by three weeks in some areas but the crop has progressed normally since then. Growers are expecting a late harvest. Harvest is underway in Missouri’s southeastern counties and is expected to start in the northwestern counties in a couple of weeks.

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