MONTE VISTA, CO — San Luis Valley potato acreage is up slightly this year, from 55,000 in 2011 to 55,100 in 2012, and Colorado Potato Administrative Committee Executive Director Jim Ehrlich said indications are that the crop is of good quality and volume.
Shipments of the 2011 crop had continued into July 2012, with Aug. 9 Spud Facts figures showing year-to-date loads at 34,533 compared to 34,249 as of July 2010.
Notingthat 2011 shipments were ahead of the 2010 crop, Mr. Ehrlich said in 2012, “We’ll have at least as many potatoes as last year.”
“We had a lot of heat in June, and there has been some shortage of water and some hail,” he said. But he said overall conditions were favorable, and he added, “I think we will have a good crop.”
Some growers had started harvesting in August, and others were looking at an early-to-mid September start, depending on location and conditions.
“Water is a huge, huge issue here,” Mr. Ehrlich said. Commenting on predictions from water district representatives, Mr. Ehrlich said he believes an El Niño system will bring much-needed relief, however.
“I think we’re due for a wet year,” he said. “Weather patterns suggest we will get more snow this winter.”
In addition to water, the San Luis Valley’s major industry is also contending with the failure of Congress to pass a farm bill.
“It’s being held up in the House,” he said, adding that when Congress reconvenes in September, the session will run very short. And the current bill expires on Sept. 30, which could end funding for potato projects under Specialty Crop provisions. Additionally, the bill could revert to its 1940 language, which Mr. Ehrlich said would be a “disaster.”
“Then we would have to start over” with funding requests, he said.
In CPAC’s newsletter for August, Mr. Ehrlich said, “House leadership has declined to bring the bill up for consideration for political reasons and has considered extending the current farm bill for one year. There are many reasons a long-term farm bill is a better idea, including providing a degree of certainty for farmers and ranchers in future planning and implementing spending cuts in farm bill programs that would held reduce the federal deficit.”
Mr. Ehrlich also noted the election of David Tonso, president of Cañon Potato Co. and Kurt Holland, sales agent and transportation manager of Mountain Valley Produce, as Colorado representatives to the United States Potato Board for a three-year term beginning in March 2013.
“Thanks to the two of them for serving the Colorado industry,” he said.