A grower self-help potato diversion program was given the green light at a meeting attended by nearly 200 growers in Idaho Falls, ID, Monday.
With Jan. 15 as a deadline to go ahead or close down, growers voted to go ahead as fast as possible. Already an estimated 250 growers, including those in five or six co-ops, have committed to diverting 10 percent of their open potatoes.
According to John Thompson of the Potato Growers of Idaho, the total signed up on Monday was 4.1 million cwt. He says it is expected to go over 5 million cwt by week's end as forms are turned in.
The goal of the group was to hit 10 million cwt but Thompson said the participation in other states was not what was expected. Washington growers have pledged 50,000 cwt so far, below what the Potato Management Company sought. The PMC is not giving up on Washington and Oregon, hoping that more sign-ups will come in during the next few days.
Verification will be made by weigh tickets or by three fieldmen to be hired by the company to mark and measure piles. An insurance company, which handles this procedure for insurance purposes, will be used.
Thompson said the Idaho seed-growing areas are also participating, pledging 120,000 cwt including their tops (potatoes too large for seed).
Potatoes will be spread on fields going into grain as fertilizer to be broken down by frost. Tuesday morning's low of minus-three degrees F in the Idaho Falls area and more cold weather in the forecast should easily freeze the potatoes. Others will be given to Second Harvest and other food banks.