Todd Michael's first memory of working on the farm is driving the potato harvester at the age of 9. Not only did he learn the mechanics of growing potatoes early on, but he also developed a keen interest in the promotion of potatoes from his father, Doug. During the United States Potato Board's annual meeting in March in Colorado Springs, Colo., Michael was elected chairman, replacing Cheryl Koompin of American Falls, Idaho. This isn't the first national leadership position for the 51-year-old Michael - in 2002 he served as president of the National Potato Council, 17 years after his father filled that same role. Following his selection as chairman, Michael addressed the USPB members about how 40 years ago his father was one of the NPC committee members that lobbied Congress to pass the law authorizing the Potato Research and Promotion Act in an effort
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Growers and shippers all want their customers to know with unambiguous certainty that the potatoes they're purchasing are not only the highest quality and best nutritional value, but also are safe. The produce industry has come together as a whole to make sure that happens across the board. That effort is the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). The initiative launched in October 2007 by Produce Marketing Association (PMA), Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) and United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh). Its efforts continue today. In November 2007, more than 30 companies, including produce suppliers and retail and foodservice buyers, formed a steering committee to develop enhanced traceability on the food chain. The retail buyers on the steering committee included: Food Lion; H-E-B; W. Newell & Co. (Supervalu); The Kroger Company; Loblaws; Safeway Stores; Publix Super Markets; Schnuck Markets Inc.; Sobeys Inc.; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; and Wegmans
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As a contract grower and shipper, Steve Theobald isn't as worried about what it will cost him to deliver his product in a few months as he is about the effect increasing fuel prices are having on everything else associated with his business. "The indirect effect is even more difficult to predict," said Theobald, of R & G Potato Company in American Falls, Idaho. "Everything we buy is freighted." R & G, a supplier to the potato chip industry, puts together its contracts months in advance, Theobald said, typically accounting for the variable nature of fuel when constructing those contracts. In a year such as this, those contingencies are likely to be used, meaning the cost of everything else now becomes much more important. "There is enough risk in the margins that you can't give up anything else as you go through it," Theobald said.
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