Potato farmers in Eastern Oregon have lost an important contract with Heinz. That’s the company that owns the Ore-Ida brand.
Many potato growers in Malheur and Baker counties have had contracts with Heinz for twenty or thirty years. But Heinz recently announced that they’re dropping contracts with farmers in eastern Oregon and southwest Idaho.
That means that some potato farmers must now find a new buyer, or plant a different crop.
Mark Ward leads the Malheur Potato Bargaining Association and is a second-generation farmer. “We grow some very nice potatoes up here,” he said. “We would like to continue to do this. It’s a big change. It’s uncharted territory. This has never happened before. We are unsure if this is long-term.”
Heinz will now contract with the Oregon Potato Company for its potato supply.
“This will allow both Heinz and OPC to take advantage of economies of scale to improve efficiency and productivity and further strengthen the Ore-Ida brand, while continuing to deliver the best quality and value to consumers,” wrote Michael Mullen Senior Vice President of Corporate & Government Affairs for Heinz wrote in an email to OPB. “This was a difficult decision for Heinz because it will affect many long term relationships with growers in Oregon, Idaho and Washington.”
Potato farmer Mark Ward says his group has started talking with that company.
In Baker County, potatoes are the second most valuable agricultural product.