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Jerry Wright returns to United Potato Growers of America as president and CEO

by Rand Green | December 05, 2011

Jerry Wright, who was one of the individuals instrumental in the founding of the United Potato Growers of Idaho, a Capper-Volstead cooperative, and shortly thereafter the United Potato Growers of America with affiliate organizations in several states, and who served as chief executive officer of UPGA from 2005 to 2006, has now returned to head that organization again as its president and CEO.

Jerry Wright

The appointment was announced in a Dec. 2 UPGA press release, which stated that Mr. Wright "will return to lead the grower-based organization," a "national federated agricultural cooperative headquartered in Salt Lake City [UT]," and he will "assume responsibilities immediately."

Mr. Wright is replacing Lee Frankel, who had served as the organization's president for the last four years. Prior to that, Mr. Frankel was president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, AZ.

Mr. Frankel "has left to pursue other opportunities," Mr. Wright said, adding, "As I understand, it wasn't a performance issue. It was more of a desire to change strategy," and as is "so often the case" when an organization wishes to change strategy, "they wanted a different person to help them do that."

The Produce News was not able to reach Mr. Frankel immediately for comments.

Mr. Wright remained CEO of United Potato Growers of Idaho during his previous tenure at UPGA and continued in that position through 2009.

For the past two years, Mr. Wright has been CEO of a seed potato operation called Neu Seed LLC. He said he will continue to be involved with Neu Seed, as he is an investor in the company and a member of its board of directors.

Mr. Wright has been living in Idaho, but he said that plans to relocate to Salt Lake City sometime after the first of the year.

"What I have been brought in to do," he said, "is to really go back and focus on the fundamentals" that have brought the industry an unprecedented four years of "stable pricing and profitability, something that has never occurred in the potato category in the history of their record keeping." Those fundamentals involve a "focus on accurate data and really understanding supply and demand."

Potato growers are "very smart people," Mr. Wright said. "Given the proper information" on what real demand is, they will make planting decisions that will "balance supply with the real demand."