The Independent, March 14, 1919
Potato Crop Is Coming Up Short
High Seed, High Fertilizer, Shortage of Labor and Uncertain Future
N. Howard Smith, manager of the Carolina Potato Exchange, who is one of the best informed men on the potato situation in eastern North Carolina, predicts that the early Irish potato crop in northeastern North Carolina this summer will be equivalent to 60 percent of last year’s crop. Mr. Smith is in close touch with the growers, especially in the counties of Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck, and his predictions usually are safe.
Early in the season it was predicted that the potato crop in this section would be fully 75 percent of last year. Seed potatoes at $5 a bag, fertilizer at $70 a ton, farm labor at $2.50 a day and no labor in sight at that, had a deterent effect upon the potato grower Then too, the drop in the price of peanuts and cotton and pork may have foreshadowed a drop in the price of other farm produce. The growers have moved cautiously, hesitating to put in any considerable acreage. Some of the larger growers have refused to plant at all; others have increased their acreage upon the strength of the assured decrease in the acreage of their neighbors.
It is hard to forecast the prospects for a sweet potato crop. Last year the sweet potato growers couldn’t get slips for planting and there was a shortage of labor such as this country has never seen. But this year the growers in Camden and Currituck have an abundance of slips and have enough bedded to make a crop twice as large as last year’s. The sweet potato crop is now waiting on the labor question. If the growers can force an adequate labor supply, even at prevailing wages, northeastern North Carolina will market a bumper crop of sweets this summer.
But the North Carolina growers are in a ticklish situation. They have put in and will put in their 1919 crops on a war-time basis. Every item entering into the cost of production has been purchased at top prices. To make anything at all on their crops, the growers must get high prices. Any successful bear movement would play havoc with the growers. All of this means that the growers in this section need organization as never before. Without organization they can not protect themselves in normal times; these abnormal times certainly demand advanced organization directed by the best brains in the country.