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Co-op Announces Potato Purchase

United Potato Growers of Idaho (United) has announced it plans to buy several hundred million pounds of potatoes from its members starting in January.

These purchases are part of United’s market stabilization program. The group will pay growers $2.50 per cwt. for the potatoes. Funding for these purchases comes from a check-off assessment on all member potato sales made during 2005, together with the proceeds from any subsequent sales of the potatoes.

According to United’s Web site, these potatoes are destined for B markets, which are defined as domestic and international humanitarian efforts, cattle feed, alcohol and compost/fertilizer use by spreading on farmland. One of the major efforts undertaken by United is work with Second Harvest, the largest food relief organization in the United States.

Record yields produced a bumper crop of potatoes in Idaho that is spurring United’s B-Market plan to buy down raw-product potato supplies to a level that will better match traditional demand. The program is designed to stabilize pricing and increase farm gate returns.

In other United news, the group is moving toward the formation of a national cooperative of potato growers. The national United super-cooperative will coordinate state and province activities to balance North American supplies with existing and expanding markets, according to a United press release.

“Fresh potato growers in Idaho, as well as other states, are ready for a change,” said Albert Wada, United’s chairman. “United’s growers are going to start operating their businesses like every other rational business does. We will collaborate as cooperative growers in Idaho as well as with other fresh potato producing states and provinces to long-term manage and stabilize production at levels that afford our growers long-term stability with reasonable profits and liquidity. Right now there is no liquidity for the grower and he is operating at a loss on the equity that has taken years of hard work to earn.”

Since its inception in November, United’s Idaho cooperative membership has swelled to represent approximately 90 percent of Idaho’s fresh potato acreage.

For more information on United’s current activities, visit http://www.unitedpotato.com
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Originally posted Monday, Jan. 24, 2005

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