In September 2012, shortly after the close of the 84th annual convention of the Idaho Grower Shipper Association, Travis Blacker, president of the organization, left to take a position as industry relations director for the Idaho Potato Commission. The following month, Mark Klompien was hired as the new top executive of the organization.
Klompien, who was previously vice president of supply chain management at Idahoan Foods, will be at the helm of Idaho Falls-based IGSA as it opens its 85th annual convention Aug. 28 in Sun Valley, ID.
Prior to his time at Idahoan, Klompien spent 18 years at Basic American Foods, where he held a number of positions in engineering, operations, raw material and supply chain before being named vice president of procurement and government relations. Before that, he spent six years at Lamb Weston Inc.
According to a brief bio furnished to The Produce News by Klompien, he has spent "virtually his entire life in potatoes -- from growing up and working on his father's seed potato farm in Montana to his lengthy career in the potato processing industry. He has worked first-hand with all of the grower-shippers in Idaho, and he has built positive and trusting relationships along the way."
Klompien has served as chairman of the Potato Executive Committee for the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry and also as a board member and as executive committee vice-chairman. He also serves on the College of Agriculture Advisory Board for the University of Idaho and as a board member for the Northwest Food Processors Association.
Klompien holds a bachelor of science degree in agricultural engineering from Montana State University and also completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive Program. He obtained a Professional Engineer's license in 1995.
"Certainly, one of our primary goals going forward [at IGSA] is to enhance the opportunity of our member fresh packingsheds to successfully thrive in their business of packing and shipping Idaho potatoes, now and into the future," Klompien told The Produce News. "Along with the IGSA board of directors, we seek to accomplish this through promoting the increased sale and consumption of Idaho potatoes, providing access to educational and training programs, advocating for industry issues with government and elected officials, and engaging the resources of our exceptional supplier members in areas such as transportation efficiency, energy utilization and packaging innovation."
Among the challenges facing the Idaho potato industry are "fresh potato market access to Mexico, immigration reform that provides the potato industry with a stable workforce, understanding and complying with food-safety regulations, and the implementation of the new health-care laws," Klompien said. "Sun Valley attendees will be able to hear updates and strategies on a number of these issues at this year's convention."
Another ongoing challenge to the potato industry, he said, "is that of the USDA's restriction on fresh white potatoes in the federal Women Infants & Children program. Allowing potatoes into the WIC program has been a top priority of the industry for a number of years, and through the leadership and tireless efforts of the National Potato Council, it has sought a reversal to this misguided policy. We continue to work on opportunities within the farm bill and have been fortunate to be able to count on allies like Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson to help correct this policy."
With "signs of a good crop and balanced 2013 potato production, the Idaho potato industry is looking forward to a great upcoming year," he concluded.
Klompien and his wife, Valerie, make their home in Idaho Falls. They have two sons - Derek, who is a recent graduate of the University of Idaho, and Dalin, who is currently attending the University of Idaho.