Nov 5, 2004
Growers form United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho

The first super cooperative ever for U.S. fresh potatoes has been formed and will initially represent 60 percent of all fresh potatoes grown in Idaho and 20 percent of all fresh potatoes in the country.

Responding to several years of depressed farm prices for fresh potatoes, a group of Idaho potato growers came together recently to seek cooperative ways to improve their ability to recover their costs of production and to make a profit. A steering committee for the new United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho (UFGI) currently is working to develop a cooperative of fresh potato growers across the state. The cooperative is being engineered to respect the independent and entrepreneurial nature of potato growers while enlisting them in a combined effort to unite and improve a divided and ailing industry. UFGI’s founding members grew 140,000 acres of fresh potatoes this year and control many of Idaho’s largest potato packing and marketing operations.

According to the group’s mission statement, it is looking to bring order and stability to the Idaho potato fresh pack industry.” The group also will work with other arms of the potato industry to restore Idaho’s leadership in the nation’s potato industry.

More than 400 growers attended the UFPGI informational meeting held Nov. 3 in Idaho Falls.

At the present time, there is no plan to centralize potato marketing with one sales desk within the co-op, but UFPGI has established three committees to address market and supply issues. These committees are the Market Price Stabilization Committee, Current Crop Stabilization Committee and Future Crop Stabilization Committee.

The Market Price Stabilization Committee will establish f.o.b. potato-pricing goals. That committee also hopes to develop a clearinghouse mechanism to allow grower-shippers to better manage floor inventories.

The Current Crop Supply Management Stabilization Committee is looking at different ways to manage the current potato supply. The Future Crop Supply Management Stabilization Committee is looking to balance supply with demand. Other committees are the Public and Government Relations Committee and the CEO Search Committee.

Developmental work thus far indicates the potential impact of the new cooperative could be significant. Grower interest in membership is reported as high and represents a majority of the fresh potato acreage grown in Idaho. UFPGI is encouraging all growers, large and small, to join the co-op. Those interested in joining must buy one share of common voting stock, priced at $100, and one share of preferred stock for each acre of potatoes grown for the fresh market, priced at $5. Ongoing operations will be funded by a 2-cent per cwt. check-off, deducted from the settlements of the first handler.

Additionally, grower groups from other fresh potato-production states have committed to work with the Idaho grower group to improve similar problems in their states and the nationwide fresh potato industry.”

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