IDAHO

140 000 HECTARES

The state of Idaho is the potato capital of the United States and a world
benchmark for this crop, which was introduced at the turn of the XlXth century.

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POTATO GIANT

GROWN IN IDAHO
The Idaho highlands are very fertile, drained by the Snake River that has forged its path through the land. Volcanic eruptions some five million years ago covered the area in ash, which eroded into a rich loam packed with trace minerals, ideal for agriculture.

POTATO GIANT

 
GROWN IN IDAHO
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The Idaho landscape changed considerably after the construction of a first dam, Swan Falls, in 1901. This was followed by other imposing works, including the Palisades Reservoir, for the purpose of forming huge water reserves to irrigate the state’s semi-arid farmland. With water collection deemed a priority, the Snake River and its many tributaries were channelled into one immense water reservoir, which is now strictly controlled.

PALISADES RESERVOIR

The state of Idaho has strict water management regulations. The many retention basins are refilled when the accumulated snow in the high mountains begins to melt, which carries into a good part of the summer. The amount of precipitation in winter is therefore a good barometer for farmers. A winter with little snow means that water will be more strictly controlled during the growing season.

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American falls dam

The state’s largest reservoir was created right in the bed of the Snake River. The American Falls Dam project flooded a huge tract of land. A town of the same name even had to be relocated to make room for the reservoir. Refilled with snow melt from the Rocky Mountains, it is used to irrigate farmland throughout the season, from sowing to harvesting.

S ince water is a most precious resource, water districts were formed to govern the water reserves throughout the state. These districts, which are under state jurisdiction, were created by groups of farmers who wanted to make sure that this vital resource was carefully managed. With the help of specialized companies, such as Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District, an impressive system was built to collect the water and distribute it to land under cultivation.

It is estimated that out of the 4.7 million hectares of farmland, 1.3 million hectares are irrigated with this water system. A high percentage of farmland in Idaho is therefore used for extensive farming, to raise livestock and grow winter grains.

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The water districts invested not only in the water collection structures, but also in its distribution systems. The countryside is criss-crossed with a network of more or less high-capacity pipes, from north to south, east to west and vice versa, defying the laws of gravity through the use of pumping systems. All the structures are maintained by their managers and are subject to state regulations. These water supply pipes are hooked up to the different irrigation systems owned by the farmers, at their expense.

Users of the water system are charged a user fee according to their level of consumption. The state also levies a special tax to all land owners in areas that can benefit from the system. However, using the water for agricultural purposes remains a priority.

Thankfully, Idaho’s low population density, less than 1 600 000 inhabitants, reduces pressure on agriculture, as compared to regions like California.

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PRECIPITATIONS

Idaho’s farmland does not receive much precipitation, barely 30 cm annually, and mainly in the mountain regions and in winter. Without irrigation, potato, sugar beet and alfalfa fields would not be a part of Idaho’s landscape.

$700 MILLION

alone generate over $700 million annually,
making it one of the state’s main economic activities

P otato crops have taken over 160 000 hectares of the state’s best, irrigated land. However, potato farmers have had to rotate their crops every two or three years to prevent diseases and discourage insects. The rotated crops include sugar beets and grains, which also require irrigation.

Although rain is rare in Idaho, the climate is ideal for growing potatoes: warm during the day and particularly cool at night, since most of the land used for intensive farming along the Snake River is around 800 metres above sea level. In the eastern part of the state, where there is the largest concentration of intensive farming, the growing season is between 90 and 100 days, while the northwestern part is lucky to get 180 frost-free days. Farmers must therefore compose with short, dry seasons.

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Idaho is the largest potato producer in the U.S. Potatoes generate half of Idaho’s $5 billion in agricultural income and is the top earner in the industry, along with dairy production and livestock.

As a whole, Idaho has a diversified agriculture that maintains 100 000 direct jobs. Since a lot of energy goes into this sector, potatoes in particular, the Idaho Center for Potato Research and Education was created. This Centre has made great strides in promoting Idaho potatoes while running a number of research programs.

To build a strong potato brand, the Idaho Fruit and Vegetable Advertising Commission was created in 1937, later becoming the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC). This public agency’s mission is to develop Idaho potato production and expand its markets. The IPC has a number of responsibilities, from support to research and all the way to marketing. It is funded by a tax deducted directly from potato growers.

This commission has succeeded in getting a certification mark passed. The seal of approval, found on bags of Idaho potatoes sold around the world, is a protected geographic identification, bearing the “Grown in Idaho” slogan.

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140 000 HECTARES

Idaho potatoes are exported to over 15 countries, including Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Malaysia. With 140 million quintals harvested annually on some 140 000 hectares of land, Idaho potatoes make up more than 33% of the U.S.’ production. It is no wonder that the Grown in Idaho brand is dominating.