Acreage reduction brings better prices for Oregon potato growers

The spring weather may not have been ideal, but Tony Amstad is still pleasantly surprised with the size and quality of his early-season potatoes.

While an abundance of rain and snow pushed back planting by about a week in March, Amstad says the delay doesn’t seem to be affecting his fresh market crop. Harvest is now under way, and what he sees are spuds that are just the right shape, color and consistency for supermarket shelves.

“It’s going to be a decent year,” says Amstad, owner of Amstad Farms. “It started out bad and ended up good.”

Amstad Farms grows 2,250 acres of potatoes, mostly around Hermiston and Echo. On Tuesday, Amstad watched as crews sifted through a stream of russets that were loaded up a conveyor belt into the back of a 30-ton semi-truck bound for the farm’s packing plant in Sherwood, Ore., near Portland.

Not only is quality looking good this year for Columbia Basin potatoes, but so is price, according to Amstad. Thanks in large part to a 15,000-acre reduction in neighboring Idaho, Amstad says the fresh market is looking to bring in about $12 per hundredweight, which is the best he’s seen in three years.

“It’s called supply and demand,” he said. “And demand has been really good so far.”

Bill Brewer, CEO of the Oregon Potato Commission, says the fresh market has been dogged by overproduction the last couple years. When Idaho, the largest supplier nationwide, reduces production, Brewer says Oregon is well-positioned to reap the benefits.

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