Gallatin Valley

Montana farmers weather COVID and potato viruses

In the US, COVID travel restrictions and lockdowns meant that people ate fewer French fries in 2020. This caused potato farms to reduce the amount of potatoes planted for processing. Potato farmers across the state of Montana lost $2.2 million last year, according to Montana State University's Nina Zidack, director of the university's Potato Lab.

On a more positive note, potato virus Y wasn't much of an issue, and both 2019 and 2020 yielded great crops.

Zidack spoke about the situation of Gallatin Valley potato growers at this point in time, saying: "The markets haven't quite stabilized, but overall, the industry (is) looking good. There's still some market uncertainty after COVID, but the demand in the U.S. is excellent for both fresh and processed potatoes. There is just still some uncertainty, after COVID.”  

Last year, Gallatin Valley farmers planted exactly 4,267 acres in potatoes. Statewide, farmers planted an extra 450 acres more than the year before, Zidack told postregister.com.

Every year, Gallatin Valley's Dutch triangle of Manhattan, Churchill and Amsterdam grows some 45% of Montana's total potato crop, with the state producing almost 400 million pounds last year. About 150 million pounds of spuds are local. Much of the local market comprises farmers who sell certified disease-free seed stock to other producers here and out of state.


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