Apr 29, 2020
NPC chief Quarles breaks down COVID-19 effect in new podcast

In the latest “Eye on Potatoes” podcast episode, which dropped April 28, National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles discusses at length how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the potato industry.

Quarles tells podcast host Lane Nordlund that restaurant, hotel, tourism and school foodservice demand reduction has let to between $750 million and $1.5 billion worth of potatoes and potato products becoming stagnant in the supply chain.

RELATED: How COVID-19 is backing up the potato industry

“When the government came in and said you’re not going to have any customers for a couple of months, at least, and maybe longer than that, you really saw supply chain immediately start to back-up … It was an immediate reaction,” Quarles said during the podcast.

The National Potato Council launched its new podcast, titled “Eye on Potatoes,” during Potato Expo 2020.

The situation has led to farmers and ranchers beyond the potato industry either giving away product, when they are able to, or even dumping dairy or plowing over crops they cannot sell.

Quarles goes on to breakdown how initial federal COVID-19 relief efforts, first by Congress in the form of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and then more recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) work. He calls the efforts “substantial,” but added they are only partial to what is needed by U.S. food producers.

CARES delegated $9.5 billion for agriculture. The USDA added some additional funds for its CFAP package.

In comparison, Quarles said the specialty crop — which includes potatoes — livestock and dairy industries identified $40 billion in economic vulnerability.

“We know that we have to go back to Congress,” Quarles said. “We are going to have to do this bigger and more targeted in the future to get growers the relief that they need.”

The full podcast, titled “COVID-19 and its Impact on the Potato Industry,” can be found where you get your podcasts, including Google and Apple.

Top photo — National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles, right, speaks with Shelley Olsen of LJ Olsen during Potato Expo in Las Vegas in January 2020. (Spudman)

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