Aug 17, 2022
Idaho potato acres down 8% this year

Idaho farmers planted 25,000, fewer potato acres this year, an 8% decrease compared with 2021.

Idaho farmers planted an estimated 290,000 acres of potatoes in 2022, down from 315,000 in 2021, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Many people expected spud acres in Idaho to be down this year but the 25,000-acre decrease came as a surprise to a lot of people.

“It was kind of a surprise to just about everyone,” said Oakley potato farmer Randy Hardy. “I personally thought acres would be down a percent or two or remain about the same.”

“That’s a huge drop,” said Ben Eborn, owner of North American Potato Market News. That’s especially true considering that farm-level prices for spuds were strong heading into this growing season, he added.

The decrease is a result of a combination of factors, according to potato farmers and industry leaders.

One of the biggest factors is that input costs are significantly higher this year for all crops. Even though farm-level potato prices are strong right now, potatoes are a high-input crop and that means some farmers could have decided to plant other, less risky crops, such as wheat and barley, that cost less to plant but are also fetching good prices.

With production costs up substantially this year, “Farmers are looking at reducing inputs and increasing net and the grains are looking good this year,” said American Falls potato farmer Jim Tiede.

Potatoes are also a high-water crop and the possibility of facing drought conditions this year also likely weighed heavily in spud farmers’ planting decisions, farmers said.

“Input costs are sky-high and there are a lot of other crops you can grow that require less inputs and less water,” Eborn said.

Tiede said the reduced potato acreage in Idaho can mostly be attributed to water concerns and competition from other crops.

“I think it’s mostly those two big things,” he said.

Hardy said some potato growers had a difficult time getting seed this year.

“A combination of all of those things is probably why acres are down so much this year,” he said.

Even though total potato acres in Idaho are down by 25,000 this year, the state’s farmers will still produce plenty of spuds in 2022, said Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Jamey Higham.

Idaho potato acres in 2021 were up 6% compared with 2020 and 2022 acres are down only 3% when compared with 2020, he pointed out.

“We expect strong pricing and we will have potatoes to sell this year,” Higham said.

Average yields for Idaho potatoes were down significantly last year due to the severe drought conditions that made farming in the state difficult during the 2021 growing season.

If spud yields return to near normal this year, total potato production in Idaho will be above the three-year average, Eborn said.

“We’re expecting a much higher yield than we had last year and much better quality,” Higham said. “We’re going to have potatoes to sell. We are going to be in business this year.”

According to NASS, Idaho farmers planted 300,000 acres of potatoes in 2020, 310,000 acres in 2019, 315,000 in 2018, 310,000 in 2017 and 325,000 in 2016.

Including 2022, the 10-year average for potato acres in Idaho is 311,650.

The last time Idaho potato acreage was below 290,000 was in 1965, when they totaled 283,000. However, it should be noted that potato yields in Idaho have risen substantially over the years and Idaho farmers now produce a lot more spuds on less land.

Despite the 8% reduction in spud acres, Idaho will remain the No. 1 potato-producing state in the nation this year.

Washington ranks No. 2 behind Idaho in total potato production.

According to NASS, Washington farmers planted an estimated 165,000 acres of spuds this year, up 3% from 2021.

Nationally, total potato acreage is estimated at 910,000, down 3% from last year.

— Sean Ellis, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

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