(June 17) The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 14 published a rule that increases the minimum size requirement for all varieties of potatoes produced in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, except for the round varieties and the russet burbank, russet norkotah and silverton russet.

The USDA said the rule raises the minimum size requirement from 1 7/8 inches to 2 inches in diameter or 4 ounces in weight. This size change is based on a recommendation of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, the agency responsible for local administration of the marketing order for potatoes grown in Colorado. The rule becomes effective July 15.

The larger minimum size is expected to result in better market performance and improved consumer perception of Colorado potatoes.

The USDA said russet varieties accounted for 81.4% of the acres planted in the 2001-02 crop year. Russet norkotah, the most popular variety, was planted on 53.8% of the total acreage. Other russet varieties, including russet burbank and silverton russet, accounted for 27.6% of the total acres planted, with other nonrusset varieties making up the remainder.

While exact acreage is not known, plantings of russet burbanks and silverton russet are estimated as only a small percentage of the total acreage.