John Toaspern, United States Potato Board

Market Report - Special USPB Meeting Summary

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Green and Growing

I’m writing this on deadline, on a beautiful St. Patrick’s Day. March 17 and it truly feels like spring – sunshine, temperatures in the 60’s and no snow. It’s the wearing of the green, but all around us the ground is coming back to life. Crocuses, tulips, growers are starting to get their seed and the next couple of months of planting will be key to the health of the industry for this year and perhaps for the next couple of years.

It’s a new year, and with the ground awakening from its winter slumber it’s time to begin the year with a positive outlook. As the seed begins to sprout and the fields become a sea of green it’s time to take a lesson from the past year and plant responsibly.

This has been a winter of reckoning for the potato industry and now, hopefully, we have turned the corner and this year will see a return to better profits for all segments of the industry.

There are positive trends to report on in the potato industry. One segment that is showing growth and promise is the international market. Trade with Mexico still needs to be worked out but there have been advances elsewhere.

Go to this month’s video interview with John Toaspern to hear some good news for the potato industry. Toaspern is the United States Potato Board’s vice president of international marketing. The trend in international sales is on the rise in all segments and Toaspern anticipates a continuing climb for U.S. potatoes for the immediate years to come.

It’s a new year, new potential with new possibilities. Plant responsibly and be careful out there.


John Toaspern
United States Potato Board


Market Report

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.


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