Guest opinion: Apples, potato keys to post coronavirus recovery

Guest opinion: Apples, potato keys to post coronavirus recovery

Our state is blessed with some of the most creative people and businesses in the world. Many of their innovations are making key differences during this COVID-19 pandemic and as our devastated economy recovers, there will be greater creative opportunities.

Take potatoes and apples as examples.

Our state’s potato farmers and processors have been hit hard by pandemic-forced closures of restaurants, colleges and schools. Potato consumption dropped significantly.

Chris Voigt, president of the Washington Potato Commission recently told AGInfo.net: “we’ve lost about 32,000 acres in cuts for the crop that we would harvest this fall, plus, we’ve got 3-billion pounds in storage (from 2019 harvest) and probably 1-billion that’s not going to get processed and we’re going to have to find a home for it.”

Three large processors — McCain, Lamb Weston and Simplot — have cut back the acreage contracted with farmers. So far, the cuts range from 14 to 50 percent. However, with surviving eateries forced to subsist on “take out” orders, there are new possibilities for crisper French fries.

“Home-delivered fast food is a booming global business, but when it comes to French fries, there’s a hitch,” NW News Network’s Anna King reported last July. They often get soggy on the ride during food delivery service.

Lamb Weston researchers in the Tri-Cities developed a special starchy batter in which potatoes are dipped before deep frying. Its exact ingredients are trade secrets. Test batches showed battered fries were still crunchy 30 minutes later even at room temperature.

The “new normal” in a post-COVID-19 environment is likely to be an acceleration in home food deliveries and take-out orders. French fries can be packaged in a new container which lets enough steam escape and keeps them crispy while preventing them from getting cold.

On the apple side, last fall’s introduction of the Cosmic Crisp was a big success. There are 12 million trees planted which last year yielded 465,000 boxes.

Kathryn Grandy, the brand’s lead marketing director, told London’s Telegraph last fall: “Normally, when a new apple is introduced to the market, there might be 2,000 boxes, and it might take 10 years to hit a million boxes.”

Cosmic Crisp was developed in Washington specifically for our state’s climate and growing conditions. It is a cross between a Honey Crisp and Enterprise — both developed in America’s Midwest. Washington State University researchers took the disease resistant Enterprise and combined it with the Honey Crisp, known for its crispness, juicy sweetness and hint of tartness, to create the Cosmic Crisp.

The best news is Washington state apple growers have exclusive rights to the Cosmic Crisp for 10 years. That’s only fitting since our state’s orchardists paid researchers at Washington State University to develop it over the last 20 years. Apple growers need a license to buy the trees and pay a royalty on sales of the fruit.

Washington is a major agricultural state. Our state’s 39,000 farms cover more than 15 million acres and our state’s farmers and ranchers produces some 300 commercial crops and livestock products valued at $8 billion.

Food processing adds another $12 billion to our economy and is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry. About one-third of Washington’s agricultural commodities are exported with about 75 percent of the commodities going to Asia.

Boeing has transformed aviation. Microsoft made the personal computer a household necessity. Starbucks enlivened a cup of coffee making the “latte” a worldwide sensation; and Costco and Amazon have redefined shopping.

They were started by innovative Washingtonians in the Seattle metro area. Now, rural Washington innovations can help accelerate our COVID-19 recovery and create new jobs and products.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.

More in Opinion

Don Brunell
Guest opinion: Coronavirus spurring air cargo growth

It’s no secret that airlines and airplane manufacturers have been clobbered by… Continue reading

Crystal Linn
Aging Successfully: Gratitude, thankfulness and mental health

Have you ever stopped to consider the differences between the words gratitude… Continue reading

Sara Brabant dresses as “Weird Al” Yankovic for Halloween saying “my hair was just right.” She reminds us all to have fun as we can in these weird times. Photo courtesy of Oak Table Cafe
Reporter’s Notebook: Weird, wild and thankfulness

“Well, that’s weird!” Bill said of the funny coincidence. “No, that’s just… Continue reading

Jeremy Field, regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (courtesy photo)
Guest opinion: Shopping small for 2020 holiday season needed more than ever

It’s no secret that the Coronavirus pandemic has made a huge impact… Continue reading

Guest opinion: A climate changes-based apology

An apology to family and friends: I have been well prepared by… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Guest opinion: Military diversity’s lifeline

Diversity in the ranks has been the lifeline of our all-volunteer military,… Continue reading

USEPA Photo by Eric Vance. Public domain image
Being Frank: A time to remember

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of an event that sparked the… Continue reading

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.
Guest opinion: Washington needs manufacturing to lead the economic recovery

Kaitlyn Pype wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life,… Continue reading

Guest opinion: Time for our communities to come together

Time for our communities to come together To our communities: We are… Continue reading

Linda B. Myers
From the Back Nine: And the winner is …

This “opinion piece” will run the day after the election; I am… Continue reading

Bertha Cooper
Think About It: ‘Children will listen’

“Careful the things you say. Children will listen.” Some of you will… Continue reading

Letters to the Editor — Oct. 28, 2020

‘Fear-mongering’ flyers defy reality I received a baseless, fear-mongering flier by the… Continue reading