News April 2019

US: Overview of spring planting progress in the Northwest

Some eastern Idaho farmers foresee a slight delay in planting as they wait for snow to melt and their fields to dry. As Idaho farmers begin to decide when to plant, they can expect a warm wet spring.

In the Pacific Northwest, the April, May and June precipitation outlook indicates enhanced odds of above-normal seasonal total precipitation, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

“We’ll be fairly close to being on schedule for planting potatoes, about three to five days later than normal,” said Bart Wattenbarger, who farms with his brothers and father, Deverle, near Shelley. “Instead of planting around the 15th to the 18th of April, we’ll probably be closer to the 20th,” Wattenbarger said. “Soil moisture and temperatures will control our decisions.”

Idaho potato farmers might benefit from an anticipated decreased tonnage in Washington and Oregon, said Ross Johnson, director of international marketing for the Idaho Potato Commission in Boise.

Usually, Washington farmers plant in late February but many are still waiting for fields to dry out from an unusually harsh winter that blanketed the region with deep snow.

“Being a month behind schedule is crazy,” Johnson said. “The delay in planting might result in not as much tonnage as usual coming out of Washington and Oregon. As a result, processors who will be looking for enough product might go to the state next door ― Idaho. Farmers here might plant more potatoes in anticipation of that shortfall.”

Wattenbarger said if potato tonnage declines elsewhere in the Northwest, it might drive prices up a little “and help everyone. If their yield is a little less, prices could go up. We’ve seen a low, flat market for the past three to four years. For some, it’s meant a disappearance in equity. We could all capitalize on better prices.”

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