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IDAHO HAS ITS 2ND-BEST POTATO CROP DESPITE PROBLEMS WITH PESTICIDE

SHARE IDAHO HAS ITS 2ND-BEST POTATO CROP DESPITE PROBLEMS WITH PESTICIDE

Despite having to abandon one pesticide because of a health scare, Idaho potato growers harvested their second-largest crop ever this fall, the government reported.

In its final estimate of the 1989 potato crop, the Agriculture Department on Friday said total production in the state was nearly 10.25 billion pounds, just 130 million pounds below the 1988 record harvest.Average yield of 29,000 pounds an acre statewide was down from the past three seasons, but an increase in total acres to 353,000 nearly offset that decline, blamed on poor weather and the changing chemical environment.

As planting was getting under way this spring, the Environmental Protection Agency raised health concerns about the pesticide aldicarb. While the EPA did not ban the chemical, processers served notice they would not buy aldicarb treated potatoes. As a result, farmers who had been using aldicarb had to shift to more expensive, less effective chemicals that are believed to have affected yield.

Still, the 1989 crop should bring in substantial revenue for growers as weather problems in other major-producing areas of the nation curtailed overall production this year, keeping the market strong.

The open market for potatoes slipped no lower than an average of $4.55 per hundredweight during the harvest and was nearing $6 again last month, and growers signing pre-season contracts with Idaho processers cashed in on the price trend by negotiating an 11 percent increase last spring to push the average contract price to $4.38 per hundredweight.

The final report on the Idaho harvest was unchanged from the November projection, but the Agriculture Department did boost its national harvest estimate by about 200 million pounds to nearly 32.5 billion pounds. That came primarily on reports from North Dakota and Michigan that fields apparently initially targeted for abandonment were actually harvested.

While the national harvest is up some 3 percent from 1988, it is still markedly lower than the solid crop of over 34 billion pounds in 1987.