Blog

These spuds are for you, and you, and you: Northland Potato Growers donate to the community

The potatoes, donated by Northland Potato Growers Association members through a project dubbed Northland Potato Blessing Project, will be used for meals, holiday gift baskets and food boxes during the next year.

 

A man in a stocking cap, sweatshirt and blue jeans carries bags of potatoes into a building.
A resident of Northlands Rescue Mission, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, carried in bags of potatoes NoKota Packers Inc., in Buxton, North Dakota, donated on Nov. 14, 2022, as part of the the Northland Potato Blessing Project. Ann Bailey / Agweek
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks is welcoming with open arms donations of bags of red potatoes grown by local farmers.

The potatoes, donated by Northland Potato Growers Association members through a project dubbed Northland Potato Blessing Project, will be used for holiday gift baskets and for meals and food boxes during the next year.

On a mid-November day, residents of the emergency shelter quickly answered a call over the mission loudspeaker to help unload 50-pound bags of red potatoes, which had been bagged at NoKota Packers Inc, in Buxton, North Dakota, and were in a vehicle parked outside.

Volunteers hoisted the sacks over their shoulders and carried them into the mission. Once inside, the volunteers loaded the potatoes onto a metal food cart, which Shauna Lorenzen, Northlands Rescue Mission kitchen manager, wheeled into the kitchen.

A woman in a black t-shirt stands next to a cart of potatoes

Shauna Lorenzen, kitchen manager of Northlands Rescue Mission in Grand Forks, North Dakota, was grateful for a Nov. 14, 2022, donations of potatoes from NoKota Packers Inc., in Buxton, North Dakota, through the Northland Potato Blessing Project. Ann Bailey / Agweek

“This is a very welcome donation,” Lorenzen said. “We get so excited because along with inflation, our donations have been down.”

The association, based in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, asked its members for volunteers to donate potatoes. Several responded. During the next year, farmers will donate 4,100 pounds of red potatoes and 6,480 bags of potato chips to Northlands Rescue Mission.

A woman with a tan jacket stands in front of potato-themed items.
Jacey Kuersteiner, Northland Potato Growers Association office manager, organized the Northland Potato Blessing Project.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

The shelter will use the chips for the sack lunches it makes for residents and for others who stop in at the shelter in need of a meal.

The donations are being made as a way to show appreciation for the support of the local potato industry, said Donovan Johnson, Northland Potato Growers Association president.

“We recognize it takes many people to create a potato crop … the growers, the community, the workers,” Johnson said. “We’re thankful and giving back.”

The cooks at Northlands Rescue Mission can make stuffed baked potatoes, mashed potatoes and hotdish with the donated produce, Lorenzen said. Meanwhile, potatoes are shelf friendly so they can be stored for later use.

However, with donations sparse this year, there likely won’t be a lot to store. Northlands Rescue Mission used the 300 pounds of potatoes the Northland Blessing Project donated in October in a week and a half, Lorenzen said.

Northlands Rescue Mission makes a total of 225 meals daily at the beginning of the month, and the number typically grows to nearly 300 by the end of the month, she said.

NoKota Packers Inc., in Buxton, North Dakota, which washes and packs potatoes for about 10 farmers, was glad to be able to answer the Northland Potato Association’s call for volunteers to donate the potatoes to Northlands Rescue Mission, said Carissa Olsen, NoKota Packers president and CEO. The company annually donates to food banks outside of Grand Forks and was happy to be able to give several hundred pounds to the shelter in the city just down the road from Buxton.

A woman in black and white plaid flannel shirt, black t-shirt and blue jeans carries a bag of potatoes on her shoulder.
NoKota Packers Inc. President and CEO Carissa Olsen delivered potatoes to Northlands Rescue Mission, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Nov. 14, 2022. The Buxton, North Dakota, potato company donated potatoes to the emergency shelter through the Northland Potato Blessing Project. Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We jumped right in, knowing it would be local,” Olsen said.

The company donated in October and also will donate again in December.

NoKota Packers’ mid-November potato donation was on the evening meal menu, minutes after the produce was delivered.

“I’m going to be able to make some of these for supper tonight,” Lorenzen said, with a smile, as she looked at the bags of donated potatoes.

– – –

From The Grand Forks Herald. Read here.

 

Potato Breeding Program Targets French Fry, Chipping, Fresh Markets

A purple-meated potato is one of the unique clones the Texas A&M AgriLife potato breeding program is growing in field trials near Springlake. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter

New potato varieties bred by the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program could enter the french fry market before long, said Isabel Vales, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife potato breeder in the Department of Horticultural Sciences in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“We are quite excited about a light russet experimental potato clone that has a very special feature: a high percentage of starch and high gravity even under the very stressful high-temperature conditions in Texas,” Vales said. “I think the french fry processing market, for which Texas has not released any processing russets, is a possibility.”

The potato’s experimental identification is COTX08063-2Ru. The initial cross was made in Colorado and the selection made in Texas.

Historically, Texas has not been a player in that french fry market, Vales said, primarily because of the heavy competition from the Northwest, which is really strong in that market.

“But also, in Texas, we cannot get the high solids required for the processing markets. Out of all of the varieties and experimental clones we evaluated over time, none of them had a high gravity,” Vales said. “The experimental clone COTX08063-2Ru has a high specific gravity, even under high  conditions in Texas, and makes very good . This is the second year this clone is in the National French Fry Potato Trials.”

She said the amount of starch in potato tubers is the main factor determining a potato’s use. High solids or gravity means the potatoes are solid and dense. The potato yield is high, as is the starchy matter. High-starch potatoes are often used to make processed foods such as fries, chips and dehydrated potatoes. Potatoes with low to medium starch levels are frequently used for the fresh or table stock market.

Collaborating across state lines to reach numerous markets

Vales said the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Program is part of the Southwestern Regional Potato Cultivar Development Project, a multi-state project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“The Southwestern program was established in 1997, and we are celebrating 25 years of successful collaborative work,” she said.

In the U.S., Vales explained, there are four regional potato variety development groups involving 12 breeding programs in public land-grant universities and others within the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The regions are Northwestern—Washington, Oregon and Idaho; North Central—North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan; Northeastern—North Carolina, New York, Maine and Florida; and Southwestern—Texas, Colorado and California.

“In the southwestern region, we don’t have a USDA-ARS contribution like the others do,” she said.

Texas A&M University, Colorado State University and the University of California at Davis initiated the Southwestern Regional Potato Cultivar Development Project to meet the unique needs of the region’s potato industry, Vales said.

Crosses and original selections are made in Colorado and Texas, followed by regional evaluation trials in all three states and additional states in the western region—Oregon, Idaho and Washington. Some french fry and chipping clones enter national trials every year.

“In the U.S., most potato breeding programs are public,” Vales said. “The level of cooperation in potato breeding is unparalleled; potatoes developed by the Southwestern program are planted all over the U.S. and Canada. In the Southwestern region, we also evaluate potatoes developed by other regional programs.”

She added that while federal funding is the program’s main source for public breeding, other funds come from state departments of agriculture, national commodity groups like Potatoes U.S., foundations and in-kind support from growers. Additional funding comes from royalties derived from varieties released under plant variety protection, PVP, by the Texas A&M program.

“To obtain PVP, we have to declare that the potato varieties are unique, distinct and stable,” Vales said. “Seed growers planting PVP varieties must pay royalties. Texas A&M has been very successful in that regard. The amount we received this past year is more than $900,000, and part of that is reinvested in the program.”

Field day events introduce Texas A&M varieties, open market outlets

Vales said the trials in various locations across the state and field days are the best way to let growers and the industry know about the latest potato clones in the breeding pipeline.

“This year, we had 180 different clones in the field day display, representing fresh and processing market classes,” she said. “Within the processing class, we had chippers and french fry types; within the fresh, we had reds, yellows, purples, smalls and fingerlings.”

Around 48 people from various U.S. states and Canada attended the Springlake event. The attendees expressed interest in some clones and shared priorities and challenges with the Texas A&M Potato Breeding Team and other participants.

Early and advanced selected clones included in the field day are also evaluated in agronomic trials in Dalhart and the San Luis Valley, Colorado, as well as California around Bakersfield, South Central Valley and Tulelake, near the Oregon border.

Southwest region presents unique growing conditions, challenges for potatoes

She indicated that cooler nights favor higher yields and fewer tuber defects. Thus, in Texas, the yields get higher with elevation and latitude, which means “we typically obtain much higher yields and better tuber quality out of the Dalhart trials located in the Texas Panhandle.”

High temperature during the growing season is a major abiotic stress in several of the Southwestern Region production areas, Vales said. Heat stress can trigger physiological defects and negatively affect tuber yield and quality. Sensitivity to internal tuber heat necrosis, growth cracks, reducing sugar build-up, brown center, hollow heart and heat sprouts are assessed from field-harvested tubers.

“The potato varieties we develop come in different tuber sizes, shapes, skin and flesh textures and colors that fit different market needs,” Vales said. “For instance, we collaborate with Tasteful Selections, looking for clones with many small tubers. We are also growing fingerlings and bi-color potatoes. Recently, we developed a round russet with pink eyes and yellow flesh that was provided an exclusive release to explore new market opportunities.”

The Texas A&M Norkotah Russet strains continue to be the most popular, with 35 licensees in 12 states, she said. These are fresh-market russets. Two other fresh-market russets growing in popularity are the Reveille Russet, which doubled acreage from 2020 to 2021, and Vanguard Russet. The heat tolerance and long dormancy of Reveille Russet and Vanguard Russet are attractive features to growers across the U.S. and Canada.

Expanding potato markets beyond the Southwestern Region

Potato entries are evaluated in each state’s trials for numerous traits, including chip and french fry quality, Vales said. Top entries move to Southwestern for two years and Western Regional Trials for up to three years. Superior clones are released as new varieties. Also, Colorado, Texas and California participate in National Chip Processing Trials and the National Fry Processors Trials. Advanced selections are also sent to collaborators all over the U.S. and Canada.

Vales said the Southwestern Region Project shares breeding stocks and advanced selections with a dozen other states. Since the inception of the Southwestern Regional Potato Cultivar Development Project, 66 new cultivars and clonal selections have been released or co-released with other institutions. Colorado and Texas are responsible for 44 of those.

“These potato cultivars represent a substantial and increasing part of the national potato acreage and have significantly contributed to regional and national economies,” Vales said.

Several potato cultivars released by the Southwestern Region were listed in 2021 among the top 50 grown based on seed acreage in the U.S. Those developed in the region ranked second among the four regional projects, behind the Northwest and substantially ahead of the North Central and Northeast projects.

– – –

From Phys.org. Read here.

New Potato Disease Found in North Dakota, Minnesota Fields

The disease, called “rubbery rot,” was seen in North Dakota and Minnesota this summer and was found in Wisconsin in 2019, said Gary Secor, North Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist.

A man wearing a green polo shirt and blue jeans holds a brown clipboard in his right hand and a black microphone in his left.Gary Secor, North Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist, talked about potato diseases at Northern Plains Potato Growers Association’s annual field day held Aug. 25, 2022, at Hoverson Farms near Larimore, North Dakota.

LARIMORE, N.D. — The 2022 growing season has been mostly disease-free for potatoes, but farmers got a heads-up during a research session about a potentially damaging fungus that showed up in the Northern Plains this year.

The disease, called “rubbery rot,” was seen in North Dakota and Minnesota this summer and was found in Wisconsin in 2019, Gary Secor, North Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist told farmers at Northern Plains Potato Growers’ field day held Aug. 25, 2022, at Hoverson Farms near Larimore.

”It’s a new problem,” Secor said.

The fungal disease, caused by geotrichum candidum, results in tubers that are damp and feel rubbery when they are squeezed, similar to the way they do when potatoes are infected with pink rot. The potatoes with rubbery rot are inedible.

Potatoes that have rubbery rot disease, which occurs at the end of growing season, smell like sour milk, Secor said.

Geotrichum candidum fungus is in soils worldwide, he said.

“It’s a very ubiquitous organism,” Secor said. “It is causing some serious problems. “

Secor declined to say where the potatoes he diagnosed with rubbery rot originated from in North Dakota and Minnesota.

In November 2019, the first case of rubbery rot was documented in potato fields in the United States. The potatoes were from a field in Bingham County, Idaho, and diagnosed with the disease at the University of Idaho, according to an article written by The American Phytopathological Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Idaho potatoes that were infected with rubbery rot had been held in storage since harvest and were from a sandy loam field that was irrigated by an overhead system, the article said.

According to the article, rubbery rot has been sporadically reported in the United Kingdom and Korea and Australian potatoes with the disease were intercepted at a U.S. port. Meanwhile, rubbery rot also causes tomato rot in the United States, the article said.

Whether rubbery rot is difficult to manage is not known, Secor said. He and other researchers will study the fungus’ epidemiology to determine how to combat it.

– – –

From AG WEEK. Read here.

Applications Open for 2023 Potato Industry Leadership Institute

The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) is currently accepting applications for the 2023 Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI), February 22–March 3, 2023. PILI provides tools to help growers and industry members develop as leaders and motivate them to commit their time and energy to the betterment of the U.S. potato industry.

The Leadership Institute is a 10-day program that provides an overview of the U.S. potato industry, the challenges and issues beyond the production sector, and the roles of the industry’s state and national organizations in maintaining a positive business climate for potato growers. The 2023 program will begin in Buffalo, New York, travel through Pennsylvania, and conclude in Washington, D.C., where the class will participate in NPC’s Washington Summit.

The participant application and additional information can be found here. All applications must be submitted electronically by Friday, October 22, 2022. Confirmation of participation will be sent by November 11, 2022.

NPC Sustains Anti-tax Stance for Small Businesses and Family Farms

In response to recent media reports on congressional efforts to raise taxes on small businesses to support increased federal spending, NPC and dozens of national trade organizations issued a letter this week to House and Senate leaders opposing any new taxes.

“The NPC Board was very clear on this during our annual meeting in February. Despite Congressional efforts to resurrect previous failures to increase taxes, we aren’t wavering from our members’ strong common-sense statement,” said RJ Andrus, NPC VP of Legislative Affairs.

Arguing that the tax hikes under consideration would fall entirely on small businesses, the organizations representing millions of businesses and employing tens of millions of American workers urged congressional leaders not to raise taxes on small, individually, and family-owned businesses as part of any effort to enact a reconciliation bill this year.

Two tax increase efforts under scrutiny include: 1) expanding the 3.8 percent Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) to individuals and families who actively participate in their business; and 2) limiting the ability of small, individually, and family-owned businesses to fully deduct their losses during an economic downturn by expanding and extending the so-called “excess business loss limitation” for “noncorporate taxpayers.” “Combined, these would increase revenues by more than $400 billion over ten years, shouldered entirely on the backs of small, individually, and family-owned businesses,” wrote the group.

This effort continues NPC’s stance against paying for increased federal spending on the backs of America’s family farms. During the NPC 2020 Summer Meeting, NPC formally went on record against undermining important tax provisions like changing in the estate tax and eliminating stepped-up basis.

State Managers Take Priorities to Capitol Hill

Managers from state potato organizations joined NPC this week in our nation’s capital to meet with key Biden Administration officials, Members of Congress, and committee staff members to advocate for potato priorities.

During an in-person meeting at NPC’s office, the group met with Jenny Moffitt, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, and Dr. Mark Davidson, USDA Deputy Administrator, Plant Protection and Quarantine, to express the potato industry’s gratitude for the Administration’s support in gaining fresh potato access to the full Mexican market and discuss the ongoing cooperation needed to keep the border open.

The State Managers then walked to Capitol Hill to meet with key committee staff members to discuss 2023 Farm Bill priorities and ensuring that potatoes retain their rightful place in federal feeding programs. The group met with:

  • U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Majority and Minority Staff
  • U.S. House Agriculture Committee Majority and Minority Staff
  • U.S. House Appropriations Committee Agriculture Subcommittee Staff
  • U.S. House Ways and Means Trade Staff

National Potato Council Applauds First Shipments of U.S. Fresh Potatoes to Mexico in 25-plus Years

WASHINGTON – The National Potato Council today welcomed the news that the first shipments of U.S. fresh potatoes crossed into Mexico yesterday, May 11. The successful crossings signal the start of Mexico’s process to restore full market access for U.S. fresh potatoes after decades of disputes and legal obstructions.

“This is an important moment for the U.S. potato industry and our partners in the federal government who have fought for decades to restore access to this vital market, but we know the work is not over if we are to keep the border open,” said NPC President and Washington state potato grower Jared Balcom.

The shipments come after more than 25 years of regulatory and legal obstructions by Mexico, and one year after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled unanimously that U.S. fresh potatoes were legally authorized to be imported.

“Today’s news wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work of Secretary Tom Vilsack, Ambassador Katherine Tai, and their outstanding teams at USDA and USTR,” said NPC CEO Kam Quarles. “Both agencies have made the restoration of U.S. potato access a top U.S. trade priority. We thank them for getting us to this important step and we will need their continued partnership to ensure that the border remains open as we seek to grow the Mexican market for potatoes.”

Mexico is the largest export market for U.S. potatoes and products valued at $394 million in 2021. Despite the previous restriction to the 26-kilometer border region, Mexico was the second-largest market for fresh potato exports in 2021, accounting for 124,449 metric tons valued at $60 million last year. The U.S. potato industry estimates that access to the entire country for fresh U.S. potatoes will provide a market potential of $250 million per year, in five years.

– – –

From the National Potato Council. Read here

Planting Falls Way Behind In North Dakota and Minnesota

Last year at this time, 39% of North Dakota potatoes had been planted. So far this year, no potatoes have been reported planted in the latest USDA-NASS Crop Progress & Condition Report. Average potato planting progress for this date is 24% complete.

Things aren’t much better in Minnesota where only 8% of the potato crop has been planted. That compares to 74% last year and 54% average.
 
Other North Dakota Crops
Spring wheat planted was 8%, well behind 63% last year and 37% for the
five-year average. Durum wheat planted was 3%, well behind 37% last year and 23% average. Corn planted was 1%, well behind 33% last year, and behind 18% average. Canola planted was 2%, behind 18% last year and 14% average. Sugarbeets planted was 2%, well behind 91% last year and 62% average. Oats planted was 11%, well behind 47% last year and 32% average. Barley planted was 6%, well behind 60% last year and 33% average. Dry edible peas planted was 4%, well behind 43% last year and 32% average. Flaxseed planted was 3%, behind 14% last year and 10% average.
 
Other Minnesota Crops
Corn planting reached 9% complete, compared to 48% last year and the 5-year average of 81%. Soybean planting was 2% complete, compared to 59% last year and the 5-year average of 25%. Planting progress for spring wheat is at 2%, compared to 93% last year and 63% average. Oats at 23% compares to 86% last year and 58% average. Barley at 5% planted, compared to 85% last year and 43% average. Sugarbeets at 8% planted compares to 59% last year and 25% average.
 
The entire Northern Plains has been plagued by below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation this spring.
– – – 
Stay-up-to date with the latest news, alerts and happenings by signing up for the NPPGA weekly newsletter. Subscribe here: www.nppga.org/potato-bytes

Meet Jacey Kuersteiner | NPPGA’s Office/Finance Manager

Some of you may have met Jacey Kuersteiner at last February’s NPPGA Annual Meeting. Jacey had just been hired at the time, but is now settled in as NPPGA’s Office and Finance Manager.

The Crookston, MN native has a degree in Finance and has worked in various financial and management roles throughout her career.

Jacey lives in rural Thompson, ND with her husband Branden and their 6 year-old daughter Harper (photo). In her free time Jacey loves to travel, complete DYI-projects and spend time with her family.

Jacey says, “Having resided in the Red River Valley my entire life, I understand the importance of agriculture to both our local and global economy. I am excited to learn more about the potato industry and support the growers of the Northern Plains.”

Fun fact: Jacey has dual citizenship with The United States and Switzerland!