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David Sparks Ph.d Potato Prices
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: April 19, 2018

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Eavesdropping on a conversation between Idaho Farm Bureau Federation Pres. Brian Searle and Idaho Farm Bureau reporter Jake Putnam. Brian Searle was recently elected as the president of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation after beating Frank Priestley who served as the organization’s president for 18 years. But Brian, who was elected to a two-year term on the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors and who represents the Western region is also a potato farmer in Shelley, Idaho.

Tell us about planting?

We’ve had really wet weather this spring. We didn't have winter in Southeast Idaho until February. So we’ve been extremely muddy and its backed up grain planting. Our tractors are rolling now, we’re finally planting grain and I know potato planters are getting ready to get hooked up. I think in the next 10 days a lot of those potato planters will start putting potato seed in the ground and we'll do that the rest of this month.

How are prices this spring?

Potato prices have always been like a yo-yo, it's always up and down and it is a gamble. We started out the season with decent prices, above break-even and then we hit  January February and March. That's when we started to see a heavy shift and depressed prices. Today's markets are below production and some 20 percent below production costs, I'm hopeful that'll turn around. We’ve had an interesting year and definitely, a yo-yo year.

What the market showing today?

At harvest, there were some $8-dollar to $8.50 market prices. Today we’re at the $6-6.50 dollar range for good Russett Burbanks that are packing out in a good way. In the summer I think we will see some strength but that all depends on how many potatoes we have. It's a guessing game, we do our estimates and then we ship and it seems like some years we make a short year, longer depending on whats really there and shipped out.

And the tariff situation? Are things getting hot on the farm?

Any time you enter into a trade war it's going to affect us and it's going to affect certain areas we don’t know the full extent of the latest round of tariffs. China is our biggest concern right with the tariffs being assessed there now. Then the backing off of tariffs with Canada and Mexico it was a great move by President Trump, so there are things we need to do, but maybe in a more tactful way because it is going to hurt people and agricultural areas it's a game of dominos for us.

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