Fluctuating markets year to year aren’t ideal, but United Potato Growers of America and its state-level affiliates get a mixed review from grower-shippers.
With a lawsuit pending, Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission, couldn’t say much about the efforts of United Potato Growers and its state affiliates to cap potato acreage.
But he did say United was good at one of their tasks.
“We pay for them to do their acreage count, and I think it’s good to have that accurate count.”
According to this year’s United count, acreage is up slightly over last year, Muir said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, however, said acreage should be similar to last year.
“Total volume will probably be up slightly,” Muir said.
It’s not an ideal situation, not knowing what kind of markets your potatoes will have year to year, said Rob Rydalch, supply coordinator for Rexburg, Idaho-based Wilcox Fresh.
Some years prices are in the $12-per-box range. The next, he said, they may be $3.50 at the same time of year.
“It’s feast or famine.”
But that doesn’t mean Idaho growers are ready to address the problem of wild market swings by agreeing to the kinds of acreage caps United Potato Growers promotes.
“These growers and independent people,” Rydalch said. “They don’t like people telling them what they can and cannot do.”
They have a hard enough time agreeing with each other, he said.
“You put five or six growers in this room, and you can’t get them to agree on something.”