March 2013
PAA the Second 50 Years By Larry K. Hiller and Robert E. Thornton, Washington State University

The Potato Association of America – The Second 50 years

Last month we wrote of The Potato Association of America’s development during its first 50 years, one of the few organizations formed around a single commodity, certainly a unique concept 100 years ago. In the following 50 years, the PAA continued expanding its activities, reaching beyond the North American borders.

As we report on the PAA history, it is imperative to remember the important relationship and cooperative influences of the land-grant university system, agricultural experiment stations, and Cooperative Extension services in PAA programs, investigative efforts, and technological advances, as well as the PAA’s concurrent relationships with the USDA, NPC, USPB, potato trade journals, state organizations, other commodity organizations and crop agencies. Emphasis has ranged from production and management methods to governmental regulatory movements to improved customer perception of the potato and its nutritional value.

The PAA’s international presence and influence increased following World War II and through the 1960s. The PAA influenced the establishment of the National Potato Introduction Station at Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (1947-48); formation of the European Association of Potato Research (1955); establishment of the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru (1971) and potato associations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa; financial support for an antisera program (1983) and an International Blackleg Conference in Scotland (1983). This global activity has strengthened the PAA and helped move the potato industry forward nationally and internationally.

Annual meetings of the PAA were usually held in conjunction with the Utilization Conference and biological societies. At the 1960 meetings the desire to meet in the west and as a separate group was expressed. The first time a PAA meeting was held without another society was the 1961 meeting in Wenatchee, Wash. This was only the fifth meeting west of the Mississippi River.

The various committees that evolved to meet the needs of the industry reflected PAA concerns for the potato industry. Committees in the mid ’60s included machinery and equipment, potato nutrition and culture, potato storage and transportation, potato quality and grade standards, marketing and packaging, potato diseases, and potato insects. At that time organizational and administrative functions” were kept in committees, but a new concept of “sections” developed to handle the other functions.

The following committees became sections in the years noted.
• Potato seed certification and nomenclature → Certification, 1969
• Processing and utilization and the Potato Utilization Conference → Utilization & Marketing, 1971
• Potato diseases and their control → Pathology, 1974 → Plant Protection in 2001.
• Potato physiology → Physiology, 1978
• Breeding and cytogenetics → Breeding & Genetics, 1978
• Extension → Extension, 1978. This section merged with Production and Management Section in 2012.
• Production and Management, 1988, the only section not formed from an existing committee but members who were of similar discipline.

PAA as a professional society and partner with the potato industry changed and broadened during its second 50 years as U.S. society and agriculture evolved. Too numerous to define fully, the following examples are noteworthy.

1. Symposia were identified in PAA programs as early as 1923 but became more formalized in the ’60s and became the plenary session to start each annual meeting. Also, it became a responsibility of the sections to organize the symposium.

2. Graduate students were given their own category with reduced dues in 1983, and the emeritus category started in 2007-08.

3. The role for the president to become the past president came about in the 60’s.

4. Spanish abstracts included in the Journal since 1974 resulted from a 1965 motion to accept articles written in either English or Spanish with an abstract in the alternate language.

5. The graduate student paper competition was initiated in 1976.

6. The PAA Endowment funds (general and Frank Haynes grad student awards) were first presented in 1999, officially recognized in 2000. The status of PAA was changed to a non profit 501(c) (3) organization in order to accept tax deductible contributions.

7. Executive committee meetings historically were held only during the annual meeting, but, as PAA business became more complex, teleconference meetings were initiated in 2006.

8. Publishing of the American Potato Journal was transferred from New Jersey to Maine in 1973. The name of the journal was changed to American Journal of Potato Research in 1998. In 2007 publishing of the journal was transferred to Springer.

9. A sweet potato symposium was part of the 2011 annual meeting program in Wilmington N.C.

10. Transition into electronic voting for new officers was reviewed in 2010-11 and used for the first time in 2012.

Collaboration between the PAA and all facets of the potato industry has strengthened the total potato effort in many ways during the first 100 years. In this respect it has in part fulfilled the opinion and anticipation of its founders that “this association could be of inestimable value in promoting the potato industry in all its phases.” This should continue to be PAA’s goal for the next 100.

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