The chip potato industry faces major challenges during the next three to four weeks, according to

Bruce Huffaker with the Michigan Industry Potato Commission in DeWitt.

Chippers will begin pulling potatoes out of North Carolina and Missouri this weekend. Most observers believe that the potatoes need another seven to 10 days to reach their full yield potential.

While the industry will rely on potatoes from other areas for a portion of their needs, those potatoes should be cleaned up by the end of next week. In addition, Canadian chip plants will need to begin importing potatoes soon.

Since the Easter freeze set back most potatoes in the affected areas to the same start date, yields should improve as the harvest progresses. The big question is how many acres will be left to harvest, once the potatoes have reached their full maturity.

Tropical Storm Barry brought needed rain to crops in North Carolina. The rains may have been too late to do much good for Florida crops.

In fact, some observers are concerned that continued showers may start to take a toll on the quality of Florida's remaining chip potatoes. In North Carolina and some other growing areas, the rains should help potato crops make a strong finish.

Fresh potato growers from across North America met in Minneapolis this week, to discuss the transition period, July through September, when the 2007 harvest is gearing up at the same time supplies of storage potatoes from the 2006 crop are diminishing.

They reviewed historical price behavior and the causes behind it. The growers explored how they could stabilize prices during the transition period. The conference was sponsored by United Potato Growers of America, but was open to all potato growers.