The 10th annual Crop Transition Conference was held last Wednesday in Bloomington, Minnesota; a conference many who attended call the most valuable meeting of the year. The conference which is organized by the United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) was first held in 2008 and was focused only of the red potato market. The leaders at UPGA were aware of how every year the red market crashed in August when the large summer red crop hit the market out of Central Minnesota (Big Lake). This was not just a problem for the growers from Big Lake but also the storage states that inherited the price like the Red River Valley, the nation’s largest red shipper. In most years up until 2008, the Red River Valley entered the market with their fall crop before the summer crop from Big Lake was wrapped up. Data compiled by UPGA and communicated to growers at those early meetings found the problem wasn’t as much with over-supply as it was with timing. It became evident that growers in different regions needed to communicate with each other to find the best marketing window for each of their crops.
The conference has expanded over the years to include all regions of the country and all types of potatoes. Growers and shippers from all over the US and Canada now sit down at the Crop Transition Conference and project the size of their crops and when they will be harvested. This shared information helps all growers and potato marketers make intelligent decisions.
The timing of the conference in late June is no coincidence. Generally by this time enough is known about how many acres have been planted and how weather has affected the crop up until that point.
At the conference last week, most regions around the country reported they are off to a good start including here in the Red River Valley, but some regions are expecting yields to be down due to wet or cold growing conditions. Fall crop planting surveys have indicated fewer acres of reds and russets, but more acres of yellows. Here in the Red River Valley, harvest should be at its normal time barring unforeseen weather events at harvest time. Big Lake expects to start harvest around July 24th.
One of the more noteworthy items coming out of the 2017 conference came from Dale Lathim, executive director of the Potato Growers of Washington and head of the Potato Marketing Association of North America (PMANA). Dale reported that over the next several years, new and expanded frozen processing plants will require 17,000 additional high producing acres to meet their needs. The big question in the room was how this would affect the fresh market, especially in the Northwest where the two markets are so intertwined. How many fresh acres could be rededicated to growing for the processors? How many excess potatoes for the frozen market could make their way to the fresh market? These will be challenges that we will no doubt be dealing with in the near future.
This conference is just one example of how the United Potato Growers of America makes all potato growers more profitable. The Red River Valley has one of the stronger local co-ops belonging to UPGA, but have room to expand its membership base even more. Interested? Contact Ted Kreis at 218-773-3633 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Potato Bytes, published by Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. Edited by Ted Kreis, Marketing and Communications Director.