Not just wheat taking a hit. Not just corn & soy coming up very short on yield and harvest percents. Not just a pandemic taking out the world’s largest hog producer (China) and spreading toward the rest of the planet. But then the cold came for the spuds.
Potatoes were also planted late due to water conditions, and now the early arrival of severe cold has damaged the crop in the ground that has not yet been harvested.
Worse, the damage extends to the “seed potato” crop (that isn’t actually a seed but potatoes grown to be used as planting stock next year) so there will be a shortage of potatoes in 2020 just due to lack of planting stock.
So far, mostly the Reds and Yellows have been hit (so prices can be twice that of russets), but this will get worse as the overall shortage works through the system. At present, some of the damaged spuds can still be run through “processing” into things like boxed dried potatoes. After this harvest is done, it is unlikely that next year those processors will get so many cheap potatoes. (So consider stocking some instant mashed or some boxed “au gratin” like potato products for later this year / into 2020; if you are fond of potatoes).
30 minutes from Yanasa Ama Ranch:
Then a “Good Ol’ Boy” takes a tour of the local market in the middle of the USA.
“Deep South Bama with Mr. Tom” for 20 minutes:
He’s a bit slow talking, in that usual southern way, but it grows on you once you are settled on a porch or pool side with a tall one ;-) After the market tour, he settles down at the computer to do some background data on how the current crop will supply excess to processing and short the fresh potato market. “10 percent to as high as 40 percent frost damage”. At about the 10 minute mark: “A lot less seed potatoes put in the ground” for 2020.
Do I think this is the end of French Fries as we know them? Nope. I do think there will be pressure on the big chain fast food places to either shrink / short the size of the fries or jack up the price. I did notice that, at Costco, when I bought a #15 bag of “bakers” they were about 1/2 the size each compared with 6 months ago and the skins looked a little more rough. This will get worse over the next 6 months to a year.
So if you like spuds, grab some now (bag or box) ’cause it will only get worse until the next crop year, or potentially the one after that depending on seed potato stocks and next year planting conditions.
I’m also figuring next spring will likely be a good time to try growing some of my own potatoes again. I’ve wanted to try them in tubs. I have done well with them “in the ground” but eventually some little white bugs got into them. I think in a tub with potting soil I can control that better. As I’m fond of the fru-fru purple and red ones that cost a lot anyway, I expect I can pick up a small bag of them at Whole Foods or Trader Joes and use them as seed. (Yeah, I know, not certified virus free etc etc but I’ve done it before with good success).
But those big old fat Russet Bakers are not going to be as available or cheap for a year or two… or three.
A couple of related articles for folks who would rather read what Tom reads than watch / listen:
Then a couple more recent:
Disaster Aid Approved for N.D. Producers
Published online: Nov 11, 2019 Articles Jenny Schlecht
U.S. secretary of agriculture Sonny Perdue has approved North Dakota’s request for a secretarial disaster designation for 47 counties related to late-season rainfall and a disastrous October snowstorm.
The declaration came on Friday, Nov. 8, the same day that Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., hosted Bill Northey, USDA’s under secretary for farm production and conservation, to hear from producers at a roundtable and see the impacts of flooding and the early blizzard during a field tour in the Red River Valley.
Northey said programs enabled by the disaster declaration won’t make producers whole given the difficult situation, but the effort is to “do as much as we can to get you through to next year.”
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “Most of our programs are not written for times like these. They’re written for normal times. And so they don’t sometimes work just the way they should when we have such abnormalities. We’re not supposed to be harvesting soybeans in November. It’s just not supposed to happen. We’re not supposed to have to wonder about leaving sugar beets until spring and what it does to next year’s crop. You’re not supposed to have saturated soils when it freezes.”
Red River Valley Could See Millions in Potato Losses
Published online: Oct 31, 2019 Articles, Potato Harvesting Ann Bailey
Source: Grand Forks Herald
Successive nights of sub-freezing temperatures have caused an estimated $45 million in damage to the Red River Valley red and yellow potato crops.
Wet conditions during the past month delayed the potato harvest, leaving about half of the red and yellow crops, which are grown for the fresh market, vulnerable to frost damage, said Ted Kreis, Northern Plains Potato Growers Association spokesman.
“We’ve got 1,100 acres we may not get out,” said Hoverson, noting the last time he left potatoes in the field was in 1983.
“It’s been tough. We don’t get many days to harvest and it rains and snows and freezes …. If they even have a little frost damage, they’ll get frost rot. They won’t store and quality goes down,” he said.
The ripple effect will be felt across the region, Hoverson said. Not only potatoes, but sugar beets, soybeans, wheat, corn, canola, edible beans and sunflowers have been damaged as a result of the delayed harvest.
“Every crop is at peril. It’s really bad for the region,” Hoverson said.
Early Freezes Take Bite out of Harvest
Published online: Nov 04, 2019 Articles, Potato Harvesting
Source: Gro Intelligence
Recent freezing temperatures in Idaho set back the top potato-producing state’s harvest, but it could be weeks before the extent of the damage to the crop is known.
Frost damage can affect potatoes in a few different ways. Extended cold can lower pulp temperatures and dramatically increase the risk of shatter and blackspot bruising. Potatoes harmed by frost have a greater likelihood of developing soft rot. Frozen soil can prevent harvest altogether.
On the ground crop condition surveys, published weekly by NASS, reported widespread losses for this year’s crop. Some fields were left unharvested because frozen potatoes were too costly to dig up. In other cases, the quality of harvested potatoes was degraded so much that the potatoes had to be discarded.
Oh, and I’m going to dig my dehydrator out of the closet and try some spuds on it…