(Sept. 14) IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — A cooler summer with adequate rainfall should make Idaho potatoes much more attractive to buyers this fall.

Idaho grower-shippers, coming off two years of low markets and less-than-stellar quality, are upbeat about the potential for this season across the board. They say size and quality and packouts should be much better than the past couple of years.

Industry estimates are that acreage is down in Idaho about 3% and potato acreage down in the rest of the U.S. about 6%, grower-shippers said. But the quality is good enough in this year's Idaho crop that packouts should be higher than last year and make up in volume for the acreage reduction.

"We're excited about the upcoming crop," said Jim McBride, director of sales for Rupert-based Mart Produce Corp.

Norkotahs started about Aug. 5 in the western and southern parts of the state and a couple weeks later toward the eastern area. The entire state should be into burbanks by Sept. 20.

"We had an ideal growing season," said Eric Watte, salesman for Twin Falls-based Garnand Marketing LLC. "We had cool nights and warm days. We have a good, medium-sized crop with a good marketing profile.”

On Sept. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that movement of Idaho potatoes was increasing and that quality, size profile and shape were excellent.

Bales of five 10-pound mesh sacks of nonsize A sold for $3.50 while 50-pound cartons of 40s-70s sold for $7.50. Fifty-pound cartons of 80s sold for $7, 90s for $5 and 100s for $4. The prices are low enough that storage already has started, the USDA reported.

By comparison, on Sept. 15, 2003, the USDA reported that movement was slow and size was small. Bales of five 10-pound mesh bags of nonsize A sold for $3.50-3.75 while 50-pound cartons of 40s-60s sold for $8-8.50. Fifty-pound cartons of 70s sold for $8.50, 80s for $7-7.50, 90s for $6 and 100s for $5.50.