Cancel OK

USA and Canada potato production: by the numbers

The United States harvests just over one million acres of potatoes each year.

Idaho leads the way, digging more than 300,000 acres, mostly in Eastern Idaho’s Snake River Valley. Russets still dominate, with a global reach.

“We’re still heavy to Burbank potatoes, which is a little different (Russet) variety compared to what most of the other countries are growing,” says Kevin Stanger, president of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, ID.

After Idaho, Washington weighs in second with 165,000 acres of potatoes. The Columbia Basin is home to the majority, though the Skagit River Valley, in northwest Washington, also boasts large fresh shipments and exports.

Wisconsin is the third-largest potato state, with acreage mainly in the Central Sands region.

“One of the things that sets Wisconsin apart is we can get things to the East Coast overnight. That’s part of the service we offer, part of the advantage of buying out of here,” notes Mike Carter, CEO of Bushmans’ Inc., Rosholt, WI.

Potatoes grown in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin typically ship until July and June, Carter says. But weather is always the wild card for shipping, as shown in 2018.

“We had a heavy snowfall in the middle of April, which is right about planting time, so that put us back a bit. Then we had a very difficult harvest season between rain and cold weather,” he says, predicting the area “will probably have a shortened shipping season” in spring 2019.

The Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota also exceeds 100,000 acres. North Dakota has seen the most substantial shift in acreage, by variety, with fewer Russet processing acres while maintaining its fresh area of whites, reds, and yellows.

“We’re planting more yellows,” says Dolan.

Colorado, a major shipper to the southern United States, harvests almost 60,000 acres. Five other states ship between 30,000 and 60,000 acres, emphasizing fresh markets: California, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon, where the Hermiston area is a hub.

Colorado and Oregon lead in organic potato growing acreage, with California, Washington, and Maine as runners up. Although organic acreage only accounts for an estimated 1 to 2 percent of total U.S. potato acreage, grower-shippers are carefully gauging demand.

Stanger, for one, believes organic acreage will continue to expand. To be ahead of the curve, Wada Farms is partnering with Genesis Organics to increase its organic shipments.

Canada’s fresh shipments both complement and compete with U.S. potatoes. The True North cultivates about 350,000 acres in total, harvests more than 185 varieties (ranging from Adora and Irish Cobbler to Red Pontiac and Van Gogh), and is a significant exporter.

Prince Edward Island is country’s the leading producer, with more than 80,000 acres. Together, PEI and New Brunswick grow over 135,000 acres. The Prairie Provinces combine for 125,000 acres, most in Manitoba and Alberta. Quebec and Ontario add another 75,000 acres, with Quebec harvesting about 40,000, according to Statistics Canada.

Fresh potato shipments from Canada have put pressure on U.S. growers, especially the past five years, says Bryan Folson, president of Folson Farm Corp., East Grand Forks, MN,.

Given the strength of the U.S. dollar, it’s been cheaper for Canadian potatoes to come across the border, he says. Potatoes from Quebec are his main competition and influenced the length of this year’s season: shipments ran into August, instead of ending in early July.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full article.