Industry Leader Q&A: John Keeling, National Potato Council

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Spring and Taxes
The first nice day of spring is always a tease. One weekend of 60° weather and people start breaking out the shorts and sandals, only to wake up Monday morning to freezing temperatures and at least one more snow squall. Maybe that’s just the case here in west Michigan, but I have a feeling it’s universal.

This time of spring also brings one other surprise – tax time. April 15 is dreaded by many, and with good reason. The tax code is so confusing and the implications of screwing up your taxes are so high that I doubt many business owners do their own taxes. I don’t even do mine, and I’m sure they’re not as complicated as the average farm business.

When you turn in your taxes this year – and hopefully you already have – consider the benefits of paying your taxes. The Farm Bill has moved forward, which should provide more opportunities for potato growers and other specialty crop growers. Other federal agencies are hard at work securing export opportunities and trade agreements that also will benefit growers.

So, while spring brings good and bad, remember that there are many in government and your industry associations that are working hard on your behalf – to help your farm business stay profitable and secure for the next generation.

Industry Leader Q&A
John Keeling,
Executive President and CEO, National Potato Council
What is the current status of the Farm Bill debate?
The conference committee has really begun in earnest, which is a really positive thing. They’ve been meeting every day and are working on a compromise.

The outstanding issue continues to be at what level baseline funding will be provided, either the $10 billion figure or the $5.5-5.6 billion, and more critically, where those offsets will be from.

The final issue, woven into all that, is included in the $10 billion figure is a permanent disaster program that’s not included in the $5.5 billion figure.

So the committee is working on the funding levels and how they would be arrived at.

They’re meeting every day, so it’s encouraging every day. There’s a deadline on Friday, but there are a few ways to extend that deadline. The odds of them pulling all this together by Friday is somewhat of a long shot, but they can do a short extension to come to some sort of agreement.

It’s critically important to the potato industry and specialty crop alliance members that we get a new Farm Bill. Too much work has been done so far to settle for an extension of the current Farm Bill.

How is NPC involved in working out the Alberta seed potato situation?
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and our Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are very close to having an agreement in principle on how the delimitation will take shape and the testing will take place, and what ongoing testing will be taken to those areas that already have nematode problems.

We’re really talking about the immediate infestations so seed can move safely, and then how to deal with the infestations over the long term. They’re very close to having an agreement, and when they do have an agreement we’ll meet with them, and that could be as early as Wednesday. After we meet with them we’ll work on informing the potato industry about the agreement.

It’s certainly a very, very difficult situation and it has to be dealt with in a scientific and consistent manner. TEXT


Market Report
Cold temperatures and precipitation have delayed potato and other crop plantings in parts of the country this spring.

Southern and Midwest states experienced strong storms and heavy rainfall in late March and early April, with parts of Louisiana and Florida receiving as much as 8 inches of rainfall. The upper Midwest also saw heavy precipitation, with portions of Wisconsin seeing 1.25 inches of rain in one day in late March, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Spring snowstorms and extremely low temperatures have affected plantings and winter crops in the Plains, upper Midwest, Northeast and Northwest. Nebraska received 8 inches of snow, Minnesota 5 inches and South Dakota 3.5 inches in late March. Minnesota received an additional 7 inches on April 6, although other parts of the state recorded temperatures in the 50s for the first time this spring. Northern Michigan also received a late snow, with portions of the Upper Peninsula receiving anywhere from 1 inch to 20 inches April 1. Spokane, Wash., has received almost 200 percent of its annual average snowfall this winter, with an additional accumulation of almost 7 inches falling in late March and early April. That area has had the second-highest recorded snowfall at almost 90 inches, second only to the 93.5 inches that fell in 1949-1950. In northern Maine, about 34 inches of snow still sat on the ground at the beginning of April, tying the record set in 1955.

Record-low temperatures were recorded across the country in late March and early April, according to NASS. Vermont hit a low of 5˚ F and central Idaho set a record at minus 17˚ F – the coldest day in a week’s worth of temperatures well below zero.

Parts of Texas have set record high temperatures this spring, with recorded temperatures in the low- to mid-90s. Rain has been heavy in other parts of Texas, with portions of eastern and northern Texas receiving as much as 4 inches of rain in one day.

Late snow may be good for the water situation in some states this season, but growers in some states have had to delay plantings, which will lead to a shorter growing season. NASS is reporting that small grains planting is behind schedule in some states, including Idaho, and the quality of winter wheat will be lower than last year.


Kettle Brand Chips Death Valley Chitpotle
PICTURE The new line, Death Valley Chipotle, is due out next month at retail stores nationwide. The chips use a blend of chili pepper, cayenne, chipotle, habanero and jalapeno for a hot, smoky flavor.

Kettle Brand Chips is calling the new line its “people’s choice” because the product was selected by thousands of fans.

All Kettle Brand Chips are cooked by hand and are all-natural, with no trans fats. The retail 9-ounce bag holds nine servings, with each serving containing 150 calories and 9 grams of total fat (1 gram saturated fat, 1 gram polyunsaturated fat and 7 grams monounsaturated fats). One serving also contains 170 milligrams of sodium, about 7 percent of the daily recommended value.