Gary Roth Oregon Potato

July/August 2019
New Oregon Potato Commission head Gary Roth no stranger to state agriculture scene

Gary Roth may be new to the Oregon Potato Commission, but he’s no stranger to the state’s agricultural scene. Roth, who recently succeeded longtime OPC director Bill Brewer, has more than 30 years of experience in ag. He’s been with the Oregon Farm Bureau as a lobbyist and has held positions in Oregon Department of Agriculture’s trade and marketing divisions. Roth has also worked in the private sector as a business developer. He grew up on a farm in Scappoose and is a graduate of Oregon State University.

1: What attracted you to the OPC?

I was looking to leverage my skill set and experience with greater focus on a tighter range of products in an industry which provides great economic potential and return for its members. I was looking for impact, to work with committed stewards who represented the best of Oregon agriculture. For me, the OPC is the perfect fit.

2: What are the biggest challenges for the Oregon potato industry?

I’m one and a half months into the job and every grower, shipper and processor has a slightly different twist on that. Research is the OPC’s No. 1 priority, and this must continue in strong cooperation with our neighboring states. I also see consumer education, international market access and education and career entry opportunities as areas which can be further addressed. … I’m really excited about exploring ways to leverage Potatoes USA’s Athletic Performance Campaign.

3: What are your top goals for the next year?

It is critical that I continue to venture around our state and meet and confer with as many (industry members) as possible to build out my understanding. Alongside that is to maintain and strengthen a close working relationship with the other producing states, particularly our neighbors in Washington and Idaho. We share a considerable amount of grower investment in research with our two neighbors and their land grant universities; it’s important that this be sustained and supported.

4: How do you plan to utilize your trade history in your new position?

Trade development seldom happens quickly, so patience and perseverance are key. We will seek to maximize our available resources for trade development in cooperation with our USDA and state of Oregon friends and partners for both market entry and market penetration. Market entry policy work, while it can take years, is relatively low cost and typically can have a huge marginal return on cost and effort when it’s successful.

Grant Morris of Pasco, Washington, left, talks with new Oregon Potato Commission CEO Gary Roth during the National Potato Council summer meetings.

5: How will your background with state government help?

I have worked extensively with Oregon’s commodity commissions and the OPC specifically. The OPC is an independent state agency, yet has ODA oversight. Fortunately for me, there is not a learning curve in terms of understanding how an agency should and should not operate. … I look to help OPC function on all cylinders, so to speak, take advantage of its unique position and navigate the regulatory landscape for maximum efficiency.

6: What do you enjoy doing away from work?

(My wife and I and our two teenage children — a boy and a girl) live on a small, 5-acre farm very near where I grew up with three horses, a dog and a cat. Our children are very active in the community and sports. I spent much of my youth in 4-H and both my wife and I, in equestrian sports, which both our children have taken up. … I still own three of my grandfather’s tractors and all of his hay equipment — it all still works — and has been gratifying to bring my kids up on the same equipment.

7: What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?

My wife does a fantastic job preparing red potatoes with salt, pepper some onion and a little olive oil and garlic to throw under the broiler or on the barbecue. I always order country potatoes if I go out for breakfast.

More from the Spudman 7

Nathan Tallman, Pennsylvania Co-Operative Potato Growers

Phil Hamm, Herminston Agriculture Research and Extension Center

Chakradhar Mattupalli, Colorado State University

Matt Wilkes, Potato Services of Michigan



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