Potato prices up for Eastern Idaho farmers

POSTED: 06:11 PM MDT Sep 18, 2013    UPDATED: 06:30 PM MDT Sep 18, 2013 
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

It is early in the potato harvest season, but right now, prices for Eastern Idaho farmers are looking good.

"Growers are probably getting somewhere between $8-$10, the same potatoes last year were somewhere in the $3-$4 range," said Paul Patterson, University of Idaho agricultural economist.

Idaho Falls grower James Hoff pointed out that at this point in the season, higher prices are normal. He expects those prices to dip in the coming weeks, but he is still hopeful for a better year.

"Given last year's return on the crop and this year's potential return on the crop, hopefully it will turn out as a wash and we will get healed up from last year," said Hoff.

"In order to stay in business, they can't sell potatoes at $3 and $4 when it costs them at least $7 or $7.25 to produce," said Patterson.

Add another 50 cents to $2 to that cost to include storage and processing.

The price increase is all supply and demand. The number of acres of potatoes is down about 8% in Idaho.

"For me-- I'm down about 60 percent," said Hoff.

Patterson says that less acreage is a good thing for profits, but consumers could pay a little more for potatoes at the grocery store.

"Potatoes in general are usually a very good bargain, even if prices go up, if you look at it from a nutritional standpoint," he said.

With over 60 percent of Idaho potatoes coming from Eastern Idaho, the economic boost could make up for it.

"When people see potato trucks rolling down the highway, they should think about that in terms of dollars that are going to be flowing through the Idaho economy," said Patterson.

Although we saw many days of above-average heat this summer, Hoff says he still expects at least an average-quality crop. The recent heavy rain and cooler temperatures have also been helpful for his harvest.