The annual meeting of the United States Potato Board (USPB) was held in Denver, Colo., at the Westin Tabor Center March 8-12. The meeting saw the election of a new chairman along with passage of the assessment fee and a revised interpretation of the bylaws governing term limits by the Obama administration.
Cheryl Koompin, of American Falls, Idaho, was elected chairman of USPB during the final day of the meeting. Koompin and her husband, Klaren, along with their sons, Klaren's brother and sister-in-law and a nephew operate Koompin Farms. They farm around 15,000 acres. They are process growers and typically grow 3,300 acres of process potatoes and seed potatoes each year.
Koompin has been the co-chair of the USPB's international marketing committee for the last three years. She has been involved with the USPB over the past five years.
Koompin said that she would continue to emphasize the development of new international markets for U.S. potato growers in all sectors – fresh, process, dehy and seed. She also said that during her tenure as chairman she would continue to support the USPB's "Who is Linda?" domestic marketing campaign targeted at women between the ages of 18 and 54. The campaign attempts to inform women consumers to the economic and nutritional value of potatoes to their diet and their pocketbook.
Another major policy component that Koompin will face during her year as chairman will be the development of the USPB's next comprehensive five-year long-range plan.
On March 11, Tim O'Connor, USPB president and CEO, listed five items to be the industry's biggest problems. Declining demand led the list, followed by acrylamides, obesity, low-carb diets and consumer's changing lifestyles.
O'Connor warned the audience not to believe that any sector of the potato industry enjoyed immunity from the items on the list.
"Demand is everybody's problem," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said that the industry must focus on how to address long term demand, citing the 10-year decline in potato consumption that continues to plague growers, packers and shippers.
He said that if they don't resolve the decline in long-term demand, tomorrow would look no better then yesterday.
"Image in consumers' mind is one of the huge issues facing the industry," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said that it was up to the industry to “unlock positive images," and that any positive changes would come incrementally because there is no silver bullet.
USPB decided at the meeting not to raise the current assessment, holding it at .03 cents per cwt. Not a big victory but in a year that has seen very little good news in its first quarter, this was a small victory.
On the other hand, a move by the Obama administration and USDA has members of USPB concerned that membership recruitment could be impaired.
The Obama administration has issued a term limits directive to all agricultural promotion boards and all check-off councils.
In an effort to bring more diversity onto the boards and recruit more women, minorities and small farmers to membership on the boards, USDA informed USPB at last week’s annual meeting that no one would be allowed to serve beyond two, three-year terms.
USDA would not allow “retreads,” members who serve for six years, take a year or more away, then return to another three-year term.
The only way to get around the term limits directive would be to have your Congressman write a letter to USDA seeking an exemption.