Born to Lead
Some are born to lead (think Queen Elizabeth II), some are born to run (think Bruce Springsteen) and some are born to grow potatoes and to lead the National Potato Council.
For Jim Tiede, the National Potato Council‘s (NPC) 2016 president, leading the NPC is a natural extension of growing up in the heartland of the nation’s potato country.
Tiede has been immersed in potatoes and potato policy since he was knee-high to an emerging potato plant in eastern Idaho.
Tiede is a third generation Idaho potato grower. His family has been farming on the outskirts of American Falls, in Idaho’s Power County, since 1908, when Jim’s grandfather, John Tiede, started the family enterprise with a 160-acre homestead. Jim’s father, Otto, followed suit continuing to expand the farm’s acreage with the original farm located on the appropriately named Russet Road.
Today, Jim and his son, Alex, oversee a 3,000-acre enterprise with 900 acres planted in Russet Burbanks and Ranger Russets that are contracted with Lamb Weston and J.R. Simplot for 2016.
Along with the potatoes they’ll plant 1,100 acres of hard red wheat, 800 acres of sugar beets and 160 acres of feed corn.
Tiede said that the current process contracts are making it tougher for many growers dealing with overhead and land payments to turn a profit.
You have to be leveraged pretty low,” he said. “We’re lucky enough this is a 108-year-old farm, our grounds all paid for, it’s all free and clear. That gives me a little bit more margin than a guy that’s making payment to the bank for his farm.”
He is a strong proponent for active involvement in the potato industry at both state and national levels. He served as the U.S. Potato Board (now Potatoes USA) chairman from 2002 to 2003 and as the Idaho Potato Commission chairman in 2012. Prior to becoming NPC president, he was on its executive committee for four years.
Tiede said the major issues he sees for 2016 include Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling for food products, full market access in Mexico for U.S. fresh potatoes, West Coast port slowdown relief, increased truck weights on the interstate highway system and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement.
With spring planting completed, Tiede is busy making plans for the NPC Summer Meeting July 13-15 in Park City, Utah. Most of the issues discussed at the Potato D.C. Fly-In this past February remain unresolved. Tiede and John Keeling, NPC executive vice president and CEO, anticipate a full agenda of topics to be covered at Park City.
“We’ve got some projects that we’re still working on,” Tiede said in a video interview on Spudman. com. “Agriculture generally wins in a free trade agreement,” Tiede said.. “We’re an export business and so TPP would probably help ag.”
“We think we’ve got a good case and we’re going to win that case eventually, but like all litigation, it’s costly,” he said about NPC efforts to open Mexico’s border beyond the current 26-kilometer zone for access to U.S. fresh potatoes.
In addition to Alex, Jim and Debra are the parents of three daughters, Jacklyn, Meredith and Erin, and the grandparents of six.
To read more about Tiede Farms, see the grower profile in the January 2012 archived edition.