Along with the rest of the produce industry, the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee was awaiting a final farm bill from Congress later in January, and CPAC Executive Director Jim Ehrlich said a number of items in the bill are of particular interest.
“We’re watching for a SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, compromise,” Ehrlich said, noting that he did not think a “milk cliff” would be reached.
The threat of farm product prices skyrocketing as a result of subsidy rules expiring with the old bill is not likely to materialize, Ehrlich said.
“Agriculture pundits think Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will have something in January, and I’m looking for news as soon as Congress reconvenes this month,” he said in early January.
Ehrlich went on to say that if a new farm bill does not pass, the 2008 provisions for research on specialty crops could be lost.
“Some research programs won’t be funded,” he said.
Other issues being closely monitored are the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which will affect processors and shippers.
“There’s a lot up in the air,” he said of the measure, adding that water quality standards are going to affect a great number of crops.
“But there’s not a farmer out there who wants to produce unsafe food,” the CPAC director stated.
Looking at the San Luis Valley situation, Ehrlich said acreage in 2013 was down 10 percent from the previous year, with 50,000 acres planted in spuds. Production was off by 10-12 percent as a result.
“I have not heard of any problems with the crop, and prices have been relatively good,” he said.
The valley will have storage potatoes into July, maintaining year-round supplies. Water shortage remains the linchpin issue facing the area, although Ehrlich said a wet fall did help recharge the area’s aquifer.
“We’re still in a tough spot, and the state is having hearings on well pumping rules,” he said.
“We’re hoping for an average year, but growers will have to reduce pumping, which means fewer acres in all crops. Still, we don’t look for potatoes to drop below 50,000 acres,” he said.