While not where it was this time last year, Chris Voigt said things have gotten slightly better for Northwest potato growers. The Executive Director of the Washington state Potato Commission said two months ago, things were dismal industry wide, but have slowly started to improve. This despite disappointment in the CFAP program.
Voigt acknowledged recent adjustments will allow the potato industry to access some funds, but said the USDA’s cutoff date of April 15th hurts local growers.
“April was the worst month and so we actually had a lot of damages that occurred after April 15th, and so, there for, it’s just not as helpful as it could have been. You know, if the program was extended another month and the deadline was May 15th, then we could have some real good recovery and assistance from this federal program.”
Voigt added that April 15th date has denied coverage for a lot of growers that desperately need assistance. On the positive side, Voigt said home consumption of potatoes and potato products has increased greatly during the pandemic, which is being reflected in the supermarket.
“It seems like every week, fresh potato sales and frozen potato sales in grocery stores continue to rise. Still not making up for our loss in food service, but we’re selling a lot more in the grocery stores and people are eating more at home. So, that’s a good sign. So, we’re hoping even when things go back to normal, that people will still continue to eat potato products at home.”
The biggest question that remains, according to Voigt, is how long the ripple of the pandemic, which has impacted the entire industry from seed growers, to potato growers to processors, will last. Voigt said that ripple could take several years to overcome.
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