Wisconsin potato growers predict bumper crop

07/16/2012 08:37:00 AM
David Mitchell

Lundgren said if red deals in the East are done by the time Wisconsin starts in mid-July, prices should be strong until Minnesota begins shipping its new crop. However, he said Wisconsin’s russet deal likely will have to compete with Kansas, Washington, Colorado and Nebraska.

“And new crop Idaho norkotahs won’t be far behind,” he said.

Russets make up a significant portion of the crop for many Wisconsin growers.

President Dick Okray said reds and yellows account for 15% of volume for Plover, Wis.-based Okray Family Farms Inc., which doesn’t grow whites. The rest of its crop is russets.

The USDA reported July 3 that U.S. One russet norkotah baled five 10-pound film bags non-size A Wisconsin potatoes were mostly $8-8.50, and 50-pound cartons of 40- 70s were $11.

Varieties on the rise

“Varieties are steadily increasing,” said Rick Kantner, director of sales and marketing for Friesland-based Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. “Reds are No. 2, but russets are still the dominant potato.”

Kantner said Alsum is trying to educate consumers about varieties and how to use them, including offering recipes on the company’s website, Facebook page and packaging.

Lundgren said Spud City has seen steady or slightly increasing demand for colored varieties.

“A lot depends on the quality of the crop when it comes to colored potatoes,” he said. “We see an increase in volume if the quality is high.”

Okray said Wisconsin growers have benefitted from increasing retail demand for locally grown product.

“This concept resonates with young and old alike, and I predict it will only gain traction in both the retail and restaurant channels,” he said.

Lundgren said that benefit hasn’t been limited by state lines.

“We are closer to the major eastern U.S. markets than most other growing regions, so that means fewer food miles for Wisconsin potatoes, which generally translates to a lower price — most years — for our customers,” he said.


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