(Nov. 16) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s fall potato production estimates show a 30-million cwt. drop in production, half of it coming from Idaho, but the report didn’t raise eyebrows with shippers who were already seeing the reduction in their storage numbers.

The Nov. 10 report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service confirmed that acreage reductions, driven by lagging markets in previous years and growers cooperative groups in many production regions, would significantly lower production.

Overall, fall production estimates dropped from 410.3 million cwt. to 382.2 million cwt., a 7% decrease. Total U.S. production from all four seasons in 2005 is estimated at 421 million cwt., an 8% drop. Average yields dropped 2 cwt. an acre, to 389 cwt., and harvested acres dropped 7%, to 1.08 million acres.

Idaho’s production will go from 132 million cwt. in 2004-05, the statistics service predicts, to 117 million cwt.

The USDA on Nov. 15 reported Idaho russet burbank 50-pound carton f.o.b.s at $9.50-10 for 40-60s, $10 for 70s, $9.50 for 80s, $8.50 for 90s and $7.50 for 100s. At the same time last year, the prices ranged from $7.50 for the larger russets to $4.50 for the 100s.

Idaho shippers had moved about 8.27 million cwt. on the fresh market as of Nov. 15, said David Smith, president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, Idaho Falls. That compares to 8.61 million cwt. moved last year at that time.

“(Shippers) are optimistic, and they’re moving forward with the idea of supplying their customers with quality,” Smith said. “It’s started out to be a good season and it’s continuing to be successful.”

The Red River Valley’s production will be down significantly, after excessive rains during the growing season, said Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D.

“We’re down probably about 17%, and we could also incur a few extra percentage points in shrink over last year,” Dolan said.

Despite the lower inventories, Dolan said Associated Potato Growers plans to have supplies into June, which is a normal end to the season.