IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Potato farmers are limited in their defense against Monday night's forecasted cold temperatures.
“You can maybe get a little water on them hopefully that will protect them a little bit. But other than that, there's really not a lot of farmer can do,” said Wada Farm's marketing group president, Kevin Stanger.
Stanger says the upcoming cold temperatures aren’t scaring spud farmers too much. They’re just hoping the numbers don’t fall below freezing.
“If we do have a freeze, those potato plants that are up and above the ground, it'll burn off those leaves.”
Stanger say it could also affect the yield and sizing of the spuds, “Because it just puts back the growth, and it kind of has to regrow back. So some of those plants may or may not have a chance to catch fully back up to have a full size profile underneath those plants later this fall.”
While some farmers may delay harvest to give the spuds some more time to grow, stanger says, they can’t delay it too long.
“It may delay some of the guys that want to get some early harvest out, and they may push back their harvest for a week or two or whatever to try to get a little more size, but they haven't got a lot of time. It's not like you can push it back to the end of October or something, it's going to be too cold so there's a little bit that you can do in delaying harvest," Stanger said.
Besides the temperature, another thing affecting some spud farmer is COVID-19.
Potato sales have seen a nine percent increase at retail stores since July of last year according to Potato USA.
However, due to the current pandemic, the fry market in the food service industry has struggled according to Stanger.
He says restaurants haven’t been buying potatoes for french fries. He says the fry market lost a huge percent of their business, cutting what they call the carton prices in half and in some cases more.
It is even impacting next year’s crops, “It was a hit to the grower community when this thing came about. I know that acreage for next season is going to be down, because a lot of the fryers and whatnot have obviously had reduced orders because of the COVID-19 aspect. Their inventories are quite high. So they have cut back on some of their frozen contracts and as a result it reaches down for next season,” Stanger said.
Although some farmers will cut their acreage for next season, Stanger says that won’t cause a french fry shortage next year.