Washington and Oregon grower-shippers report excellent growing conditions and look forward to good quality and yields.

Oregon growers reported a strong beginning to the growing season, said Bill Brewer, executive director of the Portland-based Oregon Potato Commission.

“We had a really good spring,” he said. “Guys got in at a reasonable time and the crop looks really good.”

The cold hand of winter reached unexpectedly into some of the state’s growing areas this spring, but damage was minimal, Brewer said.

“The Klamath Basin had a night of frost, but everyone is protected,” he said. “I think they got through OK.”

Acreage is up slightly statewide this year, Brewer said.

Storage supplies from the 2011-12 season should be adequate to meet customer demand until the new crop begins shipping, likely around Aug. 1 for most shippers in the Northwest.

“We’ll have plenty of good product into next year,” Brewer said.

Washington acreage is similar to last year for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said Les Alderete, director of production and grower development.

Early planting, early harvest

As of the week of June 18, the crop was running about a week ahead of schedule, with reds set to come off about July 10-12, yellows a couple of days later and russets the fourth week of July, Alderete said.

The crop was planted about two weeks early, he said.

“They’ve had a few cold spells, but I talked to our grower and he said everything looks good,” Alderete said June 19.

The Washington harvest typically lasts about eight to 10 weeks, Alderete said.

L&M sources russets and red potatoes from a grower in Sunnyside, and some reds later in the deal from a grower in western Washington, Alderete said.

It’s been a mixed bag from Mother Nature this growing season, but the good has outweighed the bad, said Dave Long, chief executive officer of the Othello, Wash.-based United Fresh Potato Growers of Washington-Oregon.

“It started wet and cold, with a lot of wind, but since then it’s been ideal weather and the crop’s looking really good,” Long said. “If it’s normal from this point of forward, it’s going to be a good crop.”

In terms of acreage, the Umatilla/Hermiston area of Oregon will be down slightly this year, Long said. Washington acreage is up about 6,800 acres, but all of that has already been contracted for processing markets.

“Fresh acreage should be about the same” in both Oregon and Washington, Long said.

Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission, also predicted similar fresh acreage for Washington fresh-market potatoes in 2012-13 — about 25,000 acres.

As of late June, mild growing weather in Washington meant outstanding growing conditions for spuds, Voigt said.

“They’re probably the best-looking plants we’ve ever seen,” he said. “The plants have thrived in the cooler weather.”