U.S. Potato Board Assessment to Increase

After reviewing results of the U.S. Potato Board’s (USPB) domestic and international marketing programs and discussing the future of those programs on budgets that have been static for more than 20 years, board members voted during USPB’s annual meeting to increase the assessment. Eighty-eight percent supported the funding increase from 2 cents per cwt. to 2.5 cents per cwt., with a delayed start date of March 1, 2006.

“This level of support speaks clearly of the industry’s commitment to our strategy and programs,” said Ray Meiggs, newly elected chairman of the board and a North Carolina potato grower. “We have invested grower dollars in highly successful programs during the past five years, and the recent action of the membership will allow us to respond more quickly and effectively to opportunities and unforeseen challenges.”

Prior to the annual meeting, a regionally representative grower survey was commissioned to gauge the degree of grower support for the USPB compared to prior years, as well as awareness and attitudes toward specific aspects of its strategies and programs. The overall evaluation of the job being done by the USPB was positive, with “excellent” or “good” ratings outweighing unfavorable evaluations four to one. More than eight out of 10 growers said they supported the programs funded by the per hundredweight assessment. Additionally, 62 percent expressed interest in increasing resources for specific programs.

The survey was reflective of what was reported by caucuses prior to the vote on the motion for an assessment increase.

“We all know that the industry is going through difficult times right now because we are all in this together,” said Kraig Knutzen, a potato grower from Washington and the USPB immediate past chairman.

The newly-formed UNITED of America grower cooperative is focused on solving the over-supply issues affecting the industry, he said.

“We have time to see them make great strides to solve the supply issues before the increase goes into effect – that’s why we timed it the way we did,” Knutzen said. “But the growers, after reviewing and analyzing the USPB demand-building programs, were committed to the assessment increase, knowing that the potential return to growers far exceeds the investment.”

Originally posted Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2005