Growers May Have Bargaining Chip

Published online: Feb 15, 2001
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Idaho potato growers may have just found what they have needed for process contract bargaining for a long time-a new chip. This isn't a computer chip or a potato chip but a bargaining chip.

Idaho Power Company's Valentine's Day announcement it is planning a program to cut power consumption by paying growers for the electrical power they would have used to pump irrigation water for growing potatoes, has reportedly made processors nervous.

Two meetings have been set up by growers for Feb. 19 and 21 to not only allow growers to hear the buyback proposal from Idaho Power Company but to discuss processing contracts.

Monday's meeting will be at 9 a.m. in the King Fine Arts Center at Burley High School in Burley, ID. The second will be at the Blackfoot Civic Auditorium in Blackfoot, ID, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The meetings will be co-sponsored by the Potato Growers of Idaho, Idaho Grain Producers and the Idaho Farm Bureau..

"I think this new development is making contractors a little nervous," Keith Esplin, president of PGI, said. "We will hear the information on the Lamb Weston contracts Friday (Feb. 16)."

Esplin says he does not know how much the power company will pay on the power buyback program. To come out, growers will need a tempting offer.

Idaho Power won't have to buy as much power as it normally would to supply customer summer demand if consumption is cut. If rates go up, many high-lift irrigation pumping areas in the state, especially in southwestern Idaho could be hurt.

The fact increasing power rates in Canada have caused Lamb-Weston to postpone expansion of its Taber, AB, processing plant in an announcement made Feb. 12, has apparently put a cap on frozen french fry production increases in Alberta.

Rumors are circulating that plans of french fry processors to expand in Manitoba and Maine are also in jeopardy.