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May/June 2014

May/June 2014



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Act one: go slow, (despacio*)

Vive la Mexico! I could have sworn that I heard this collective shout of celebration (or was it a sigh of relief) from the potato industry on March 20.  That was the day when the federal government of Mexico issued the much anticipated provision opening the entire country to importation of U.S. fresh potatoes in 60 days. So, when I began calling growers, shippers and industry leaders to gauge their reactions to the announcement, I came away with two parallel sentiments. Number one, everyone, in unison, said that this is great news for the potato industry, for both the U.S. and Mexico and, number two, that the U.S. industry must move into Mexico with deliberate caution and respect to Mexico’s agriculture industry. Show me the money Curiosity to know how his check-off money was being utilized was Brett Jensen’s motivation to seek nomination to the…  » Read more
Getting It Done

Getting It Done

A desire to follow the money took Brett Jensen, 43, of Idaho Falls, on a path that led to his 2014 election as chairman of the U.S. Potato Board (USPB) this spring. Curious to find out how his check-off money was being spent by the USPB, the Idaho grower applied for nomination to the USPB in 2008. Joining the board in 2009, as a member of the international marketing committee, he found that not only is the check-off money being used wisely, but there’s a lot of hard work and long hours that goes into promoting the potato industry. It’s an experience that he encourages other growers to participate in. “People need to get involved … to see where their check-off goes (and) how many hours and time and money it takes to grow and maintain the markets we have. That’s been the biggest impression…  » Read more
Heavier Loads

Heavier Loads

Proponents of increasing truck load limits on interstate highways are in for the long haul, according to industry analysts. Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Safe and Efficient Transportation Act of 2013 (SETA), would increase gross vehicle weight to 97,000 pounds from the current limit of 80,000 pounds. Even if a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) study concludes that increasing truck load limits is safe, Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said any actual change could be years away. "There will still be a long road to travel," Voigt said. "The first obstacle is Congress in general right now," Voigt said. "It's hard to get anything through Congress. There is so much partisan bickering, it's hard to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything. It's been that way for several years." Voigt said the railroad lobby would be…  » Read more
Clean Water Rule

Clean Water Rule

Federal regulators issued a much-anticipated proposed rule on the Clean Water Act (CWA) this spring just as U.S. farmers were getting ready for another irrigation season. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers released the 371-page document on March 25. The proposal will be open for public comment for 90 days. The proposed rule is designed to clarify which waterways are subject to discharge permitting requirements under the CWA. Some agriculture groups and lawmakers immediately blasted it as another example of government intrusion. The proposal makes clear that most rain-dependent and seasonal streams would be protected even though they are dry much of the year. “About 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S. only flow seasonally or after rain, but have a considerable impact on downstream waters,” EPA officials said in defense of the proposed rule. The proposal also specifies that all wetlands near…  » Read more

When facts don’t matter

Sitting at my desk in Washington, D.C., I am regularly forwarded emails from so-called pro-consumer groups urging people to support their latest public policy campaigns. Some groups pressure restaurants to substitute fresh fruits and vegetables for french fries in children’s meals. Others urge for strict bans on pesticides or other crop protection tools they have deemed unacceptable. And some call for taxes on sugar, fat, salt, trans fat, etc., etc., etc. … in foods offered to consumers. While each email may be unique, they all have the same “Donate Here” button somewhere in the message. Most also tug at the reader’s heartstrings, pick-and-choose data that supports their viewpoint, or reinforce misperceptions about food and farming. The recurring motto for these groups, and for some of the federal and state decision makers they are trying to influence, seems to be, “Why let facts get in the…  » Read more