But shortages could have positive impact for Wisconsin farmers

Early freeze negatively impacts US potatoes

As most of the US’s top, potato-producing states have struggled with a cold and wet harvest season, the USDA forecasts domestic output of potatoes will drop 6.1% this year, to the lowest since 2010. The Nov. 8 report also noted that the output of the top producing state, Idaho, is forecast to fall 5.5%.

In Idaho, potato farmers suffered the same weather as those in the corn belt early in the season; rain and cold that delayed planting and early growth. But, it was the harvest season, that bore the brunt of the bad weather. “In October, the average temperature in Idaho was the coldest on record, getting down the 13 degrees at one point during the month,” said Bryce Anderson, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist. “Coupled with a few notable winter storm systems, it brought on significant disruption at harvest time.”

The Idaho Potato Commission in eastern Idaho, estimated that yields were off 10-20 percent because of growing conditions and up to 30 percent of the potato crop state-wide was lost to the frost damage at harvest time.

Growers in North Dakota experienced one to two feet of snow in mid-October, said Anderson. The season essentially ended on Halloween, when in Grand Forks, ND, temperatures were reported at a low of 18 degrees, following a few nights of sub-freezing temperatures. Between the snow and the rain, North Dakota producers likely had twelve percent of its potato acreage unable to be harvested because of the harsh conditions. Similar calamities with ill-timed cold and wet weather also disrupted the potato harvest in Manitoba and Alberta provinces in Canada, Anderson added.

However, according to waow.com, the potato shortage could have positive impact on Wisconsin farmers. Tamas Houlihan, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, acknowledges that the US crop could be down between five and six percent.

But despite a tough growing season, Wisconsin Farmers were able to avoid an early killing frost and were able to meet their production quotas. "The week that Idaho and Montana and even North Dakota had some really severe problems with frost, it was ideal harvest conditions in Wisconsin," Houlihan said. "The upside for our growers is that they should get a little bit more money for their potatoes, because when there's a short supply the price tends to go up.”

That boost is certainly welcome, especially after nearly 200 ha were left in ground last year.

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