Jul 28, 2020
Potato Crop Progress: Overall good weather, red potatoes slow to sell

The executive committee of Potatoes USA held a virtual meeting on July 28, during which time the members shared updates on how the 2020 potato growing season is progressing in their region.

Overall, committee members said the weather around the country has been close to ideal. A few recent developments that could hinder things include a heat wave in the Columbia Basin and a wildfire in the Klamath Basin. Also, growers in the southeast reported trouble finding buyers for red potatoes, but said yellows and whites sold well.

Here are some highlights:

Chris Hansen, Bliss, New York: “The New York crop is coming along fine. … We’re probably looking at an average year, at best.”

Phil Hickman, Horntown, Virginia: “We’re in the middle of harvest; we were about two weeks late because of a late frost (post-April 20). … We have not found the demand for red potatoes to be real strong. Most of our whites and yellows are sold, but we’ve got a lot of reds (yet to sell).”

Jeff Jennings, Camden, North Carolina: “Most things have cleaned up. For the most part, it was a good crop. … Our whites and yellows moved well, but it was a challenge moving reds. Seems normal that one of the three colors is off.”

Mike Carter, Rosholt, Wisconsin: “We’ve had a great season; everything is going great. … On Aug, 10, we’ll start (harvesting) russets. They look fantastic. It was a little wet (early), but everyone seems OK.” Regarding the Red River Valley: “I think they got more rain than they needed, but it’s my sense that it’s dried up. They’re probably going to have an average crop.”

Jared Smith, Alamosa, Colorado: “I think still there is a nice crop coming. I haven’t seen the sun much the past four days, which is very uncommon. We have seen rain (of late), and late put us back a little in bulking. … There was frost damage on July 1. It wasn’t real bad, but it took some top leaves off. That took us from 10 days ahead to more toward average. … I think we’ll have good quality and good yields.”

Jaren Raybould, St. Anthony, Idaho: “We’ve had ideal growing conditions the entire month of July. I think there are trend-line yields or better from Pocatello north. … I’ve heard about a possible issue with hollow heart, but I haven’t seen it. … I think we have a nice crop coming. It might will be more than we thought. I’m 100 sacks to the acre ahead of where I was last year.” Raybould mentioned an employee at an eastern Idaho packing shed testing positive for COVID-19, which led to several sheds sending employees home out of precaution. “That’s going to push cleaning out the old crop to about the 20th of August. It’s a little wrinkle in fresh-pack.”

Steve Elfering, Idaho Falls, Idaho: “I think we’re ahead of schedule. It’s a good crop, probably more than we expected a couple of months ago.”

Steve Streich, Kalispell, Montana: “We’ve had pretty much the same schedule at Idaho — great growing weather all of July. The crop looks beautiful, but we are a long ways from getting it in the bin.”

Marty Myers, Boardman, Oregon (Columbia Basin): “We had great weather up until last week. The past three or four days have been 100 degrees (and as high as 109). … It’s supposed to stay hot and it’s slowing everything down. … I don’t have a good feel for yields. Probably average or better, but it’s still undecided on how much this heat to going to get us in August. I’m kind of nervous right now. … It’s been three years since we’ve had a serious (heat wave) like this.”

Ed Staunton, Tulelake, California (Klamath Basin): “We’ve had a beautiful July. Our crop is probably 10 days ahead of average. About a week ago, we had a dry lightning storm come through and had a fire at a national monument. … (The resulting fire) was like 46,000 acres yesterday, and today it’s 66,000 acres. That shows how fast that fire is going. … I think it’s going to slow us way down.”

— By Zeke Jennings, managing editor

Top photo: Back from left to right, Ed Staunton of Tulelake, California; Heidi Randall of Friesland, Wisconsin; Steve Streich of Kalispell, Montana; Chris Hansen of Bliss, New York; Steve Elfering of Idaho Falls, Idaho; Jeff Jennings of Camden, North Carolina; and Blair Richardson, Potatoes USA CEO. Front: Mike Carter of Rosholt, Wisconsin; Phil Hickman of Horntown, Virginia; Marty Myers of Boardman, Oregon; Jaren Raybould of Saint Anthony, Idaho; and Jared Smith of Alamosa, Colorado.

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