Fresh market vegetables
- Results were quite variable across the Northeast largely due to localized weather conditions. Excessive moisture, and in some areas, flooding, negatively impacted many growers, particularly near the Connecticut river corridor in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and parts of Eastern New York. In contrast, many vegetable growers in New Jersey reported favorable weather, good yields, and decent prices this year. High costs for inputs and labor kept profits moderate, but generally positive for most growers. Several large growers are going through generational transfers or sales, raising some uncertainty for the industry.
- Farm stands have seen solid traffic although sales remain (in many cases) below the 2021 peak.
- Potatoes: Potatoes in Massachusetts and Connecticut show significant quality problems which will result in lower prices for growers. This is related to the excessive moisture experienced during the growing season.
- Maine’s 2023 crop harvest has started, and early indications are that yields will be average to above average. Overall crop quality at the present time appears good, but growers are concerned how the above average rainfall over the growing season will affect the storability of the crop. Processors in the area ran short of 2022 crop so a larger percentage of the 2023 crop has been harvested and processed immediately.
- Contract values for the 2023 crop season remain strong, once again showing strong increases in pricing. Contract pricing is up by 17%-22%, which translates into $2-2.40 per cwt. It is expected that these increases should offset what will once again be a more expensive crop than the prior year. Cost increases were less pronounced than last year with fertilizer prices being around $100 per ton higher. Capital and repair costs remain elevated from last year, while fuel prices have trended lower. Little change has been seen in chemical costs.
- The 2023 growing season produced above average rainfall, which helped the potato crop produce what appears to be strong yields once again. The grain crops typically produced in Aroostook County struggled with the excess moisture, which prevented a timely harvest and led to increase lodging of the crop. This resulted in much below average grain yields and crop quality. Most growers purchase buy-up crop insurance on their grain acres, so it is likely that crop insurance claim payments will help to offset the crop losses.
- Land values in Northern Maine remain at the highest levels ever seen, as several whole farm sales have occurred over the past 6-12 months. Most sales for tillable acreage are now in the $5,000 per acre and higher range.
- Nationally, the potato industry appears to have increased production after several years of reduced supplies that saw Maine growers shipping processing potatoes to Washington and Idaho over the past two years. Overall U.S. potato acres were up by 48,000 acres or 5%, with the majority of that increase coming in Idaho. Some of the increased acres will be needed to fill new processing capacity that has come online over the last few years that has not been able to be filled due to reduced PNW crops. Increased tablestock production will likely lead to reduced prices in that sector, but how far prices fall will ultimately be determined by final yields across the country. Contracted production for frozen processing is up in all major processing areas, along with acreage in the major growing areas and demand for frozen processing remains strong. The European potato crop could be the smallest in several years, which would further strengthen demand for U.S fries.
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