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Planting the Seeds of Success

It’s difficult to think about planting as the Michigan snow covers everything in a blanket of white and temperatures dip below zero, but based on the turnout at the winter potato meetings, many of you are certainly thinking about your potato operations.

I attended the University of Idaho’s Potato Conference in Pocatello in January, where I heard many excellent seminars on everything from organic potatoes to irrigation management. Of course, potato cyst nematode was a recurring topic and attendees had the chance to hear John Marshall, the eminent researcher and nematologist from New Zealand, give a keynote address. Marshall led the PCN management efforts on New Zealand’s South Island, and he shared his experience for the benefit of U.S. growers.

As the planting season looms, other important issues are coming to the forefront.

The first was the reintroduction of the AgJOBS bill to Congress in January. The bill aims to restructure the H-2A program to make it easier for employers to find a legal, temporary workforce. This is an important issue for many potato growers, as many saw worker shortages last season. Predictions for 2007 are for a tighter workforce.

Second, USDA submitted to Congress its proposals for the 2007 Farm Bill. The changes are many, and if accepted, specialty crop growers will finally see a piece of the pie.

Congress has important issues to consider that could have a significant effect on potato producers nationwide. Spudman will continue to keep you updated on the Farm Bill and AgJOBS as legislators debate – and hopefully pass – those bills.

Someone else weathering the Michigan snow is Don Sklarczyk of Sklarczyk Seed Farm in Johannesburg, who was elected in January to a one-year term as the president of the National Potato Council. We congratulate Don as he takes on this extra responsibility and wish him the best of luck. Don was gracious enough to tell Spudman about his goals for the next year. You can read his responses in this issue.

The immediate past president, Jim Wysocki of Russet Potato Exchange in Bancroft, Wis., also shared with us what he accomplished during his term with NPC.

Also in the pages of this issue you will find an article on the Moir family – named Farm Family of the Year by the Maine Potato Board, an article on how planting efficiency can be improved by adjusting the speed of the planter and an article on improving fertilization by managing phosphate uptake.

The potato industry is blessed with excellent leaders who are helping the industry be successful, but that’s not always enough. As we look at the potential for the third profitable year in a row, every grower needs to step up and take measures to control acreage and contract prices. United Potato Growers of America is encouraging a 15 percent reduction, or the potential for profits might dry up.

Originally posted Saturday, Apr. 7, 2007

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