The wintry weather with which October announced itself in much of the country this year has had little overall effect on potato movement.
The biggest impact may have been felt in North Dakota. About 5 million pounds of spuds shipped from the state between Oct. 4 and Oct. 11, down from 7.6 million a year ago at the same time.
“Roughly 14% of the Red River Valley fresh potato crop planted this spring remains to be harvested and could have suffered some frost damage,” Ted Kreis, marketing director for the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, said Oct 13. “Cool temperatures for the past two weeks has slowed drying, and early morning temperatures as low as 18º just today has sent frost down about 3 inches.”
Harvest in the valley is expected to wrap up Oct. 21-24, at which point growers will have a better handle on possible damage, Kreis said.
Despite the decline in weekly shipments, prices for Red River Valley size A reds were still in the single digits. On Oct. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $9 for 50-pound cartons of size-A reds, down from $10 last year at the same time.
Nationwide, spud movement is largely unchanged from last year. Weekly movement nationwide was comparable to 2008 in the week of Oct. 4-11, and year-to-date shipments were actually up from last year at the same time.
A week after up to 5 inches of snow fell in some potato-growing regions of Idaho, the prognosis still looked good, said Frank Muir, president and executive officer of the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission.
“All reports indicate that the impact has been manageable,” Muir said Oct. 14. “The quality of the crop this year is so good that any impact resulting from these events of Mother Nature will not leave a noticeable impact. We have no reports of any acres that will be left in the ground.”
Idaho is expected to wind up its harvest by the end of October.
On Oct. 14, the USDA reported a price of $7 for 50-pound cartons of russets 40-100 from Idaho, down from $14 last year at the same time.
In Wisconsin, harvest ended in the first week of October, about two days before the first hard freeze of the season, said Duane Maatz, executive director of the Antigo-based Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association.
“We really chose not to participate in that cold weather,” Maatz said. “Everyone had pretty well wrapped up.”