This year’s long and record-breaking winter has left many fields of Northwest America either frozen or flooded much later than normal and, as a result, farmers are struggling to get their seeds sown on time.
“We’ve had the longest winter ever,” said Chris Voight, director of the Washington State Potato Commission. “Normally we start planting potatoes the end of February, but this year we weren’t able to start planting until April 1.”
After looking at the GFS Total Snowfall 10-Day Forecast, further delays appear to be on the cards.
As much as 24 inches of snow could fall in southern Montana early next week, with Wyoming and Idaho also badly affected. The totals appear even higher in northern Colorado.
The lack of any spring weather has Northwest farmers scrambling to make up time – they now need to cram two and a half months’ worth of planting into a single month.
The pressure is well and truly on, in part because potato processors aren’t particularly forgiving.
Voight laments, “Typically a processor can go to a grower and say, ‘I don’t care that your potatoes aren’t fully mature yet, we need them.’” But harvesting potatoes a few weeks early could lead a 30 percent loss in yield (and profit), Voight explained.
While the french fry companies do boast an emergency month-long supply of potatoes – currently frozen in giant warehouse freezers the size of two football fields – the question is how deep will they have to dig into those supplies to make up for 2019’s poor potato crop?
What happens after those football field-sized freezers are ransacked by desperate suppliers but poor harvests can’t top them back up?
Farmers are resourceful and adaptable, but in a battle with Mother Nature there’ll only ever be one winner.
So prepare for the worst and grow your own little corner of the world.