Apr 18, 2020
COVID-19 effect: Spudman readers share thoughts

Spudman recently offered readers a chance to voice their biggest concerns on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through an online survey.

Here are some select responses from that survey. (Respondents were given the option of supplying their name.)

RELATED: How COVID-19 is backing up potato supply chain, reducing acreage

“Our acreage cuts are going to be a minimum of 20%, and this is following a year where we thought there was going to be a shortage due to the short crop from the previous year. It will have a significant impact financially and will be tough to weather this storm.” — anonymous, North Dakota

“Demand for processing variety seed potatoes that were all contracted became worthless in one week. Substantial financial loss.” — Philip Gross, Spokane Hutterian Brethren, Reardan, Washington

“Seed growers’ losses are extreme as commercial growers cut orders at the last minute. They are the last and hardest hit in the industry’s pipeline. The best customers help with the losses, but there are many that just walk away and the seed grower has limited outlets for any left. They are too small for fresh pack and dehydrators often don’t like to take them if sugars are high. At least they don’t if there is ample supply.” — anonymous

“Having migrant labor to pack our crop and moving the crop if foodservice sector is still dead.” — Phil Hickman, Dublin Farms, Horntown, Virginia

“Foodservice business and keeping employees.” — Keith Barrett, Barrett Produce, Muleshoe, Texas

“As a manufacturer of potato planter and harvester components, we need to begin manufacturing well in advance of when we receive orders. So, we’re concerned about the uncertainty of the marketplace, as this uncertainty makes planning for future demand very difficult and risky.” — Jon Osborne, Extreme Industrial Coatings, Airway Heights, Washington

“How many more regulations are going to be put on our business.” — anonymous, Wisconsin

“My biggest worry is the financial health of our growers.” — Nina Zidack, Montana Seed Potato Certification, Bozeman, Montana

“Decreased demand and reduced price.” — anonymous, Idaho

“Contracts have been cut 50%.” — anonymous

“Trucking.” — Gene Bula, Bula Land Co., Plainfield, Wisconsin

“That the foodservice industry can’t recover.” — anonymous, Washington

“Unstable demand and prediction for the upcoming year; lack of employees; economy.” — Nora Olsen, University of Idaho Extension, Kimberly, Idaho

“Scared employees. Also, if the virus were to reach our farm, how would we finish shipping and planting without enough employees.” — anonymous, Antigo, Wisconsin

“Too many seed potatoes turned back because of the supply and demand issues.” — Edward Starkel, Polson, Montana

“That the fry market won’t return to what it was in the past.” — Dennis Bula, Antigo, Wisconsin

“Implosion of the independent restaurant.” — anonymous, New York

“If one of our employees get sick it could rapidly spread amongst our farm and we wouldn’t get planting done.” — anonymous, Nebraska

“To sell my product. I hold 60% of my crop late, so this is no different for me. I have to plant a crop thinking that my last year’s crop will go!” — anonymous, Maine

“The market price has gone down significantly because restaurants are closed; good year turning bad.” — anonymous, Idaho

“Getting my workers under H-2A program and trying to protect all my workers from contracting virus.” — anonymous, Idaho

“The impact that’s it’s having on running the shed on a daily basis and finding new homes for the foodservice sizes that we are still packing.” — anonymous, Idaho

More survey results

Among grower respondents, 58% said they either would plant (or did plant) about the same number of acres of potatoes as they originally planned; 40% said they planted fewer acres due to decreased demand. Only 2% are planting more.

When asked if they altered the varieties of potatoes they planted, only 7% of grower respondents said “yes.” The majority (70%) said they did not, nor would they have even if they had more time to adjust, while the remaining 22% said while they did not change the varieties they planted, they would have if there had been more time to plan.

Asked to classify the disruption to their job or business caused by the COVID-19 situation, 39% of survey respondents called it “significant,” while 36% said “moderate.” The remaining 25% said “minor.”

In addition to growers and packers, the survey was sent to Extension professionals, crop protection and equipment providers and processors who subscribe to Spudman. The vast majority of respondents (95%) classified themselves as a grower, packer or shipper.


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