Potato growers assistance extended

WASHINGTON – The program to provide relief to russet potato farmers and to help stabilize market conditions has been extended by the USDA.

The new deadline for the diverting the potatoes from marketing has been extended to June 12 and producers have from that date until July 13 to sign up for the program.

This is for all varieties of 2000 crop fresh Russet potatoes, except sweet potatoes.

Farmers are encouraged to divert their harvest or a portion of the crop from normal trade and commerce to charitable food institutions, livestock feed, and ethanol production.

Payments for diverting 2000 crop russet potatoes are $1 per hundredweight. Potatoes offered for diversion must meet specific minimum U.S. Grade standards and must be inspected and certified by USDA inspectors or Federal State Inspection Service before diversion.

Prices plummet.

Increased harvested acreage and record yields in 2000 combined to push russet potato production past 500 million hundredweight for the first time in history, prompting grower prices to plummet.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported the March 2001 season average grower price for all uses at $5.62 per hundredweight – down 10 percent from the March 2000 average of $6.26 and the lowest March grower price since the 1997 crop year. Record potato crops in Canada and Europe have compounded the domestic market problem, limiting U.S. sales in Canadian, European, and Asian markets.

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