TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The cost of growing and shipping produce tends to put together the same issues, but in different ways, in any given year.

The 2009-10 potato crop is no exception.

“Transportation is no longer a given, and that can change how things are handled almost overnight,” said Gary Garnand, president of Garnand Marketing LLC.

Garnand said he has noticed customers bring in a little less product, but bring it in a little more often.

“The trucking business looks for what’s going to make them the most money, and that doesn’t mean they won’t deadhead someplace to get a different load,” Garnand said. “We have our own trucking company, so I fight that myself.”

Labor, however, has become less of an issue, partly because of the amount of automated equipment packer-shippers have installed in recent years.

“Two years ago, labor was probably the central issue,” said David Beesley, president of Snake River Plains Potatoes, Ucon. “As labor becomes more expensive, it makes automated options really more valuable.”

This is probably the first year in a long time labor has been abundant, said Kent Sutton, manager of Bench Mark Potato Co. Inc., Rexburg.

“So many years we’ve struggled to find people,” Sutton said. “This year is just the opposite. Everyday people are looking for work.”

Beesley said input costs for growers are probably up 40% from six years ago.

“Input costs have backed off from previous years some, but historically, they’re very high,” Sutton said. “We do have a lot of money tied up in this crop, and our concern right now is that this return won’t be enough.”