Idaho potato acres up 12 percent over last year
By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Idaho’s 2023 potato crop will likely be much bigger than its 2022 crop.
Idaho farmers planted 328,858 acres of spuds this year, according to United Potato Growers of America, which does a physical count of spud acres in Idaho each year.
That estimate is 12 percent or 33,858 acres higher than last year’s 295,000-acre total.
Idaho’s total 2022 potato production was smaller than normal due to challenging agronomic conditions and a significant reduction in acreage.
Idaho potato farmers and industry leaders expected a sizable bump in acreage this year but the 328,858-acre number, released June 22, was higher than anticipated.
“There were signals it would be a high number but acres were higher than some people thought they would be,” said Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Jamey Higham.
Idaho’s spud farmers produced a total of 12 billion pounds of potatoes in 2022, which was well below the typical 13 billion pounds of spuds that come out of the nation’s No. 1 potato-producing state each year.
With farm-level potato prices higher than normal this past year, industry leaders and farmers were expecting a bump in acreage in 2023.
“We all knew the number would come up; it had to come up,” said Declo potato farmer and IPC board member Mark Darrington. But, he added, “It surprised me that it was that high.”
According to the June 22 edition of North American Potato Market News, this year’s spud acreage increase in Idaho “appears to be driven by demand for processing potatoes. Most of the additional acreage was in the major processing potato-growing counties. Both dehydrators and fryers have been contracting aggressively.”
NAPMN estimates that if average potato yields in Idaho this year reach the 20-year trend – 447 hundredweight per acre – total spud production in the state could reach 14.7 billion pounds in 2023.
If realized, that would be the second highest potato production year in Idaho, behind only the current record of 15.2 billion pounds set in 2000.
That would also exceed the 2022 crop by 22 percent.
Higham said it’s way too early to know what this year’s bigger spud crop will mean for the supply-and-demand situation and, ultimately, farm-level potato prices.
He also pointed out this year’s acreage isn’t that much above the state’s 20-year average of 320,000 potato acres.
He said it’s been a couple of years since Idaho had a potato crop that was normal in both acreage and yields. Since then, the state’s big three potato processors have all added capacity.
“So much has changed since (then) that we don’t know for sure where supply and demand meet up,” Higham said. “One way or another, we’ll figure out how to get the best return for our growers. That’s one great thing about Idaho potato growers: they are adaptable.”
Darrington said last year’s smaller crop resulted in Idaho processors bringing in a significant amount of potatoes from out of state to meet their processing needs.
North American Potato Market News also estimates that Idaho’s June 1 potato stocks were down 19 percent compared with the same period last year. That’s the state’s smallest June 1 inventory since 2011, according to NAPMN.
Darrington said this year’s potato acreage “is manageable given the expectations of today.”
Higham and Darrington both pointed out there’s a long way to go until it’s known for sure just how big Idaho’s 2023 potato crop will be.
Besides acreage, other major factors to consider are yield and quality, Higham said.
“We only know one of those factors right now,” he said. “There’s still quite a bit of time in this growing season left before we see how the crops is going to turn out.”
Most of Idaho’s potato crop is typically harvested in September and into October.
“We’re a long way from having them harvested,” Darrington.
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