RJ Andrus was elected president of the National Potato Council

April 2023
A third-generation farmer’s advocacy efforts get traction By Todd Foltz, Contributing Writer

RJ Andrus already working to aid the nation’s potato growers

The National Potato Council has a new president, RJ Andrus. His ambitious goals for representing the interests of the nation’s spud producers are no small potatoes. Getting the new Farm Bill passed tops the list.

Andrus, a third-generation farmer who owns Hamer, Idaho-based TBR Farms, was elected March 3 for a year’s term during the Washington D.C.-based council’s annual meeting, and he’s already getting down to business. The council sent a letter to Congress endorsing a bill that would support agricultural transportation and infrastructure.

RJ Andrus was elected president, National Potato Council, during the council’s annual meeting in Washington D.C. Photos: National Potato Council

According to the council’s letter to House and Senate leadership, the Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking Act (SHIP IT) would bolster the nation’s driver workforce with:

  • Two years of tax incentives to qualified drivers and authorization for additional parking facilities.
  • Improved truck productivity and environmental efficiency by allowing states to opt into pilot programs to permit trucks with at least six axles weighing up to 91,000 miles on interstate highways.

“I’m confident we’ll get traction,” Andrus said. “We have good friends on both sides of the aisle.”



Farm Bill advocacy will be a critical task for the council during Andrus’ presidency. Andrus said the Farm Bill is always a key concern for growers because it oversees everything farm related.

Funding for research into the use of pesticides and the application of fertilizers can significantly influence the potato industry’s ability to improve, so growers need to become advocates, Andrus said. He added that potato production alone infuses the nation’s economy with an estimated $100.9 billion annually, according to the council and a new report authored by Michigan State economists.

2023 Washington Summit
RJ Andrus (center) and NPC’s officers during the recent trip to Washington, D.C.

To achieve the legislative results the potato industry needs the 2023 Farm Bill to address, Andrus will work with the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 specialty crop organizations to which the potato council belongs. At the beginning of February, the alliance sent a report to Congress outlining the needs of fruit, vegetable and nut producers. The letter highlighted more than 100 specific points that the produce industry wants addressed in the Farm Bill.


This year, the potato council wants to:

  • Increase funding for specialty crops.
  • Reject suggested expansions to the
    definition of what a specialty crop is.
  • Support the proposed inclusion
    of white potatoes as eligible
    for purchase under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
  • Protect potato growers from regulatory overreach by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • This comes in support of the Protect Farmers from the SEC bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives in September 2022 by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.).
RJ Andrus at the NPC 2023 Washington D.C. Summit
NPC 2023 Washington D.C. Summit.


The goals of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance are:

  • To encourage healthy eating habits for consumers by expanding access to safe, healthy and affordable food as well as the plants, flowers and trees that produce them.
  • To advocate for a proportional share in Farm Bill monies.

On these issues, Andrus will pick up where outgoing president Jared Balcom of Pasco, Washington, left off. Balcom will continue to serve on the council’s executive committee as immediate past president.

The SEC is considering requiring publicly traded companies to tally and disclose information on greenhouse gas emissions from their farm and ranch suppliers. The National Potato Council’s position is that the emissions disclosure requirement would place undue financial burdens on producers.

The report the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance sent to Congress is available here.


By electing Andrus president, the commission is turning to an old hand in the potato industry. In addition to being a third-generation farmer, Andrus is a 2006 graduate of the council’s Industry Leadership Institute, and he said his experience helped him prepare for his new role.

“It’s interesting, because before the leadership training, I realize now that I was naive,” Andrus said. “I thought stuff just happened. Then I participated in the leadership institute, and it really opened my eyes. I was blown away at how many growers are involved in making the industry better. The leadership institute prepared me.”

One of the ways the leadership institute helped Andrus was in dealing with the media.

“In media training, I was terrified,” he said. “But, the training prepared me to be able to talk to the media and to large groups of people.”

Andrus believes the educational opportunities offered by the leadership institute and industry organizations in general are great resources for new or younger farms to join.

“I always say, ‘Get involved’,” Andrus said. “When we descend on Capitol Hill, we do it en masse. We have great numbers participating, and we need more. It is so crucial to keep lawmakers apprised of our priorities. We need Bob Mattive, first vice president and vice president of environmental affairs Dean Gibson, vice president, legislative affairs TJ Hall, vice president, grower outreach and industry research young people to get involved. My goal as president is to make our outreach to lawmakers better and stronger.”

Andrus said that keeping up with technological advances will continue to be important to him and to potato growers nationwide.

“Things change constantly,” he said. “Technology when I was a kid was so different from now. The advances in technology have been huge.”

Improvements in equipment are just some of the potato industry advances, he said. “Pesticides and fertilizers have improved drastically,” Andrus said. “But regulations are always changing, too, whether we keep up or not. And I want the council to help folks keep up.

“We need everybody’s help in the industry to stand up for potatoes on Capitol Hill.”



75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


Get one year of Spudman in both print and digital editions for FREE. Preview our digital edition »

Interested in reading the print edition of Spudman?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs