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Sweet potato industry continues health promotion ties

Having just returned from his association’s 52nd annual U.S. Sweet Potato Convention, on Jan. 24 Charlie Walker, the executive secretary of the U.S. Sweet Potato Council Inc., reported his board’s decisions on promotions for the coming year.  

The meeting was held Jan. 19-22 in New Orleans.

Walker, whose office is in Columbia, SC, reported that his board has elected to continue its participation of the American Heart Association’s “Heart-Check Mark” campaign.  

NCSPC1sp-harvest-tractorSweet potatoes being harvested in a North Carolina field. (Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission)Fresh, orange, sweet potatoes produced in the U.S. have been certified by the American Heart Association to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. U.S. Sweet Potato Council members may use the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark in their promotions.

Walker said, “We have a few more shippers participating” in the U.S. Sweet Potato Council.  “The percentage of participation from the industry could and should be higher.”

But he said members are encouraged to promote sweet potatoes as being heart healthy through the Heart Association opportunity.

In another promotion, the Produce for Better Health Foundation has recognized the U.S. Sweet Potato Council as a Fruit & Veggies Champion for its involvement and sponsorship in PBH’s Fruit & Veggies Role Model and Champion Recognition programs.

Walker said these two sponsorships are the limit of what the board of the sweet potato council feels it can promote.  

“We are financed primarily by the states that have sweet potato organizations.”  These states are North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and California.  Walker noted, “California is cranking up to do more sweet potato promotions.”

Associate members of the U.S. Sweet Potato Council contribute about 20 percent of the revenue.  

Beyond the aforementioned promotions, the U.S. Sweet Potato Association lobbies on behalf of sweet potato growers. Lobbying interests include farm labor issues and promoting Farm Bill passage.

Walker maintains a website and sweet potato industry newsletter.

He noted an interesting industry twist that appeared in the recent New Orleans meeting is that pet food producers have significantly increased their purchase of U.S. sweet potatoes for a pet food ingredient.  Because of its reputation for quality sweet potatoes, the U.S. industry has gained market share from less-expensive product from China.