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Report shows significant drop in Idaho spud costs

John O’Connell/Capital Press
Potatoes are harvested Aug. 23 in Eastern Idaho. Lower production costs have helped Idaho potato farmers cope with low commodity prices, according to a new study by University of Idaho Extension agricultural economist Ben Eborn.A significant decline in production costs in 2016 has helped Idaho potato farmers cope with low commodity prices, according to a new study by University of Idaho Extension agricultural economist Ben Eborn. Eborn took over responsibilities for the Idaho Potato Commission’s annual potato production cost report from Paul Patterson, who retired as a UI economist in 2015. Eborn estimated spud producers’ production costs dropped from 5.5 percent in fumigated southwestern fields to 8.5 percent in southcentral fields without fumigation. Eborn developed model farms raising Russet Burbanks typifying each region, based on surveys of growers, lenders and input and service providers. Yields were based on a three-year average through 2015. Total costs on his model farms ranged from as low as $2,236 per acre for north-eastern Idaho farmers using no fumigation — a reduction of $143 from the prior year — to $3,466 per acre for southwestern Idaho farmers with fumigation — down $276 per acre. “It’s not often the costs of production go down in agriculture, but thankfully they did,” Eborn said, noting costs paid to growers were also down, especially in the fresh market. He also made calculations factoring storage costs. For example, he placed the break-even point for a grower raising a crop with 95 percent marketable spuds stored through February at $7.75 to $8.34 per hundredweight. Capital Press report