( Photo: Louis Hansel, Source: Unsplashed, Graphic: Shelby Matthews )

Western wildfire concerns move from California to Oregon

Wildfires in California and Oregon were causing a wide range of problems for the produce industry in the first two weeks of September, from smoke creating adverse conditions for harvest crews, to closing roads and power outages in the Portland, Ore., area.

About 30 employees of Naumes Inc., Medford, Ore., lost their homes to fire in the southwest part of the state, said Robert Boggess, senior management executive, although the company’s facilities and guest worker housing were spared.

The Oregon Department of Forestry report that as of Sept. 17, 12 major fires were burning in the state and that a million acres have burned so far this year, nearly doubling the average acreage.

Season for Stokes Purple sweet potatoes begins at Frieda’s

Stokes Purple sweet potatoes are back in season and Frieda’s Specialty Produce is preparing for the holiday season.

According to data from Nielsen, retailers stocking Frieda’s exclusive Stokes Purple sweet potatoes are seeing as much as 20% increases weekly dollar same-store sales on them vs. the previous season.

As the season progresses, Frieda’s suggests creating superfood displays that combine the Stokes Purple sweet potatoes, along with fresh turmeric, ginger and citrus, touting their benefits as functional foods.

2020 Fresh Trends Data: sweet potatoes

Income and age continue to define sweet potato purchases. The likelihood of a purchase increased according to income for the eleventh straight year, with shoppers in the top income bracket being among the most likely to buy sweet potatoes overall. The top group for sweet potato purchases was made up of those age 59 and older. (The likelihood of a purchase also increased with age, a trend now in its seventh year).

USDA grower relief program has limited benefits

The USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which offers financial relief to eligible specialty crop growers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, gets mixed reviews from sweet potato growers across the country. 

Under the program, sweet potato producers are eligible for CFAP payments for losses in two of three categories: those who had produce shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, and those who had shipments that did not leave the farm between Jan. 15 and April 15, 2020. 

According to the regulations, specialty crops in inventory or in storage facilities that could be sold after April 15 are not eligible for CFAP. 

Hurricane Laura slams coast, soaks fields

Hurricane Laura slammed into Cameron, La., with winds of 150 m.p.h. at 1 a.m. Central on Aug. 27, leaving coastal areas nearby battered and bringing heavy winds and rains inland.

The storm’s landfall in Louisiana was 30 miles east of the Texas border, and it moved northeast across Louisiana.

Joe Watson, who lives two-hours northeast of the hurricane’s landfall in Lafayette, La., said the storm brought extensive tidal flooding around the region.