Sweet Corn Crop Outlook 2014

USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

According to Robert Sakata, president of Sakata Farms Inc. in Colorado, the farm saw record yields per acre, and fantastic quality and flavor in their sweet corn crop during the 2013 growing season. Sakata mentions that this exceptional quality was a result of ideal growing conditions during the summer months, and suggests that the lack of extreme heat they’d seen the last several years may have also contributed to their success.

Here, Sakata further discusses weather conditions, regulatory issues, and other concerns that affected their 2013 crop, as well as his hopes for the future.

What were some of the specific weather conditions you saw in 2013?
We did see some minor hail damage throughout the season, and this led to some occurrence of smut, which increased our harvesting costs since we usually have people pull the ears with smut off the stalks prior to harvest. We were extremely fortunate to have finished our sweet corn harvest prior to the heavy flooding rains that came through Northern Colorado during the middle of September. Many farmers had extensive crop loss as well as property damage due to flooding.

What were your biggest regulatory challenges in 2013?
Our biggest challenge this past year was finding enough help to harvest and pack all of our sweet corn. We had to divert most of our cabbage harvesting crew to help with sweet corn harvest and ended up losing upwards of 25% of our cabbage crop because of that. I have to give our entire staff a lot of credit because everybody had to work very long days to try and harvest as much as we could. It was amazing what we all were able to accomplish.

Our major challenges come from Washington DC, and even our state legislature. Because of the recent oil and gas drilling boom in our area, we are facing an extreme labor shortage [which is] compounded by the inaction of Congress to overhaul an unworkable guest worker program.

Furthermore, Colorado recently passed legislation imposing additional standards on rural electric companies to get more of their electricity from green sources. We also have to make sure that our Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plans are in place and implemented, and that we can meet the Global Food Safety Initiative audit standards and be implementing the use of our Global Trade Item Number in order to meet the produce traceability initiative.

What’s your perspective for 2014, and what are your hopes?
Centralization of where our food is raised and grown will lead to economies of scale that can better cover all of the overhead costs of our increased regulatory environment. My hope for 2014 is that as farmers, a mere 2% of the population, we can find a way to tell each and every one of our stories so that it becomes clear that each of our operations are very different, and those differences currently are our nation’s strength and not a weakness.

Source: Information from Robert Sakata.

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