SMALLER MIDWEST POTATO CROP LIKELY THIS FALL, OFFICIAL SAYS

SMALLER MIDWEST POTATO CROP LIKELY THIS FALL, OFFICIAL SAYS

Most potato industry officials expect the U.S. potato crop to yield less than last year, a North Dakota potato distributor said.

Stan Erickson, a representative for Black Gold Potato Sales in Grand Forks, N.D., said last fall farmers harvested 380 million hundredweight of potatoes. This year growers are expected to harvest 370 million hundredweight.But there are still some questions about this year's crop. For instance, people are wondering how much of the Idaho potato crop will be sold on the fresh potato market. Last year, Idaho growers produced almost 127 million hundredweight.

Idaho potato growers are finding hollow heart and internal discoloration in some of their crop, and some growers purchased equipment to detect the affected potatoes.

"The question is, how much of it and how will it affect the rest of the business?" Mr. Erickson asked. "By the time you factor out what might not leave Idaho, is it in fact a 360 million bag crop?"

Minnesota and North Dakota production numbers are also hard to pinpoint, Mr. Erickson said.

Excessive rains may have reduced the Minnesota's crop by 7,000 acres, to 10,000 acres.

Last year, Minnesota growers produced 16 million hundredweight. "I'm guessing it's going to be around 12 million (hundredweight) this year," Mr. Erickson said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's first potato production report is scheduled for a Nov. 9 release.