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NPC hosts summer meeting in Colorado

by Lora Abcarian | June 24, 2010
Roger Mix, president of the National Potato Council, said that this year's summer meeting, held June 15-18 at The Inn of the Rio Grande in Alamosa, CO, was a success.

"We had 136 registrants," Mr. Mix told The Produce News.

Two important NPC priorities were discussed during the meeting. According to Mr. Mix, attendees were given a status report on the council’s data- collection project. Growers have been contacted to find out what kinds of pesticides they are using to bring in their crops.

“We are collecting data to come up with real-life information for the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. We have to make sure we have accurate data for EPA,” Mr. Mix said, noting that these data will help pesticide producers with the EPA re-registration process to ensure the best-possible products are available to potato producers.

Currently, the council is gathering information from large fresh potato growers. “We also want seed growers to be involved,” Mr. Mix added, saying the collection process is moving in the right direction.

The council continues to press for resolution of trade barriers with the government of Mexico. An open-access agreement signed more than seven years ago allowed American producers to ship potatoes into the 16-mile area along the Mexican border. Mr. Mix said that the agreement called for increasing market penetration into Mexico following ratification. Terms of the access agreement have never been fully implemented, he added.

“Leading up to the summer meeting, we’ve encouraged members to write letters to [U.S. Agriculture Secretary] Tom Vilsack,” Mr. Mix said, adding that the restriction affects all domestic potato producers. “It’s important to have the entire potato industry behind this.”

Difficulties were further compounded in 2009 after the United States ended a pilot program implemented in 2007 that granted Mexican truckers limited access to American roadways. Mexico retaliated by imposed a 20 percent tariff on frozen product exported from the United States. Since the tariff was imposed, Mexico has increased its imports from countries such as Canada, Mr. Mix said.

“We’re fighting this battle every day,” he commented, adding that a letter has been sent to Mexican President Felipe Calderón to support the effort to reopen this access.

On other fronts, Mr. Mix said that an NPC subcommittee is looking at AGR and AGR-Lite insurance policies. “Lite is in a lot of states,” he told The Produce News. “AGR is only in a few states.”

The AGR program differs from multiple-peril policies. AGR and AGR-Lite policies insure whole-farm revenue against low returns caused by natural disasters and market fluctuations. The policies are based upon historical tax form information and annual farm reports to establish revenue data.

“We need to decide if we are going to move forward on this,” Mr. Mix said. “I think the meeting went very well myself,” James Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, told The Produce News. Olympic skater Rachael Flatt, who hails from Colorado Springs and is CPAC’s spokesperson, had lunch with attendees and then toured potato farming facilities in the San Luis Valley. The tour was arranged by Roger Christensen, a member of the U.S. Potato Board marketing committee and a member of the sales force at Skyline Potato Co. in Center, CO.

Executive committee members of the U.S. Potato Board hosted an update and input session during the summer meeting. The goal of the board’s domestic marketing committee is to build long-term demand for potatoes.

A presentation provided attendees with information about its Peel Back the Truth campaign, which targets “Linda,” the theoretical potato sweet spot consumer, who is a mother with children under the age of 18. She is technology-savvy and health-conscious.