NPC President Motivated by Family
If you ask Dan Moss why he’s a potato grower, you’re apt to hear a one-word answer: family. Not only was Moss raised by a farmer, but he’s raised his family on a potato farm.
It’s great for families,” he said. “It’s a good lifestyle we have and there’s nothing wrong with being your own boss, either.”
Moss dated his desire to be a farmer to when he was growing up. And he dated his potato farming history to when he graduated from high school in 1970.
Moss and his wife, Jann, moved to Idaho in 1980 where they purchased 160 acres. Over the years, the farm grew to the 7,000 acres it is today. Moss Farms’ potatoes mainly go for french fries, with a few acres grown for fresh. In addition to his 2,000 acres of potatoes, Moss grows sugar beets and wheat.
The farm, spread out over Southern Idaho, is divided into four pieces. And with the help of his son and business partner, Ryan, Moss has been able to make a successful operation out of it.
“I told (Ryan) to go to college for awhile and think about (what he wanted to do),” Moss said. “He came back and said ‘I want to farm, Dad.’
“It works good, and it’s kind of handy to have him around when I head to Washington, D.C., to take care of potato business.”
And as president of the National Potato Council (NPC), Moss will make several trips to Washington, D.C., and other areas of the country.
Ask Moss why he’s involved with NPC and you’ll hear a familiar answer: family.
“I can say I’m selfish,” he said. “I want to see the potato industry flourish and see my grandkids maybe increase the operation and have the opportunity to grow potatoes someday.”
Moss said NPC is not only important for his family, but for all potato growing families in the country. NPC gives growers a chance to have their voices heard, he said.
Being a leader in the potato industry is no strange task for Moss. Before being elected NPC president in January, Moss served as vice president of trade for two years. He’s also served as president of Potato Growers of Idaho and a member of the U.S. Potato Board.
“With all these special interest groups and different political groups putting pressure on the government, we need to have the growers’ voices hear, too,” Moss said. “We need somebody to protect our industry.”
As the public face of NPC, Moss has high expectations for the year ahead. NPC is continuing to work on opening the Northern states of Mexico for trade, and Moss is expecting to see that happen. He’s also looking forward to agreements being reached with Canada on ministerial exemptions and bulk easements to even-up trade practices on both sides of the border.
“As far as in the states, we are putting in place a memorandum of understanding on certified seed,” he said. “It will make all the states in the U.S. have somewhat the same rules, which gives APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services) and the USTR (U.S. Trade Representative) a tool to use on negotiating imported seed coming into the United States.”
And so far, Moss said, all states have signed the agreement. He projected that all seed planted in 2006 would be planted under this set of standards.
Moss has traveled to different areas of the country already in his few months as NPC president, and he is looking forward to more of the same in the coming year.
One of the big topics of conversation Moss has heard across the country is the formation of United fresh potato groups in the United States. So far, Idaho and Colorado have groups operating, but several other states and regions are working on forming group with a national organization soon to follow.
“We are supportive of what (United) is trying to do,” Moss said. “On a national level, because we have a lot of state growers that come together, it’s a good opportunity for them to come together and meet together under the United umbrella.”
And though NPC is supportive of United’s efforts, Moss reiterated that NPC and United are two separate organizations, with United being a business cooperative and NPC being an association.
Moss said he hopes United can help growers escape the trend in the potato industry of consolidation and going-out-of-business auctions.
“Whether or not they (United) can orderly control the amount of potatoes that get shipped to the markets, I’m hoping that they can,” he said.
Moss said consolidation is the biggest trend he sees in the industry, as well as one of the biggest threats.
“We’ve always had it on the french fry side, and I see the fresh industry starting to go the same way,” he said. “There’s going to be more and more consolidation in fresh production and the companies that sell fresh potatoes to restaurants and grocery stores. And as that happens, I think we’re going to see a reduction in growers.”
And though it means less immediate competition for himself, Moss doesn’t want to see anyone go out of business.
“It would be disappointing to see some of your neighbors quit the potato industry, especially if they have to sell their farm because of poor prices,” he said.
Another threat Moss sees to the U.S. potato industry is Canadian imports. But with NPC’s work to remove ministerial exemptions and bulk easements, this is one threat that could be eliminated.
“As long as we had the ministerial exemptions in place, it’s blocked that opportunity to have access to markets north of the border,” Moss said. “Hopefully with the removal of bulk easements and ministerial exemptions, we might be able to level that playing field a little more and we can ship potatoes either way across the border and let quality and price be the guiding forces.”
Guiding the Farm
With his family and his family’s future as his guiding force, Moss will continue to work on issues affecting the potato industry across the United States.
“I have one granddaughter and three grandsons, and it’s important that they have an opportunity to further this business,” he said.
And Moss’ favorite part of growing potatoes?
“Being able to load my grandkids in the back seat of a pick-up and go out and dig in the spuds and check the water and call my son on my radio,” he said. “I guess it’s the opportunity to have a business that your family can all participate in and take time to enjoy each other.”
Moss and Jann also have three daughters, Mandi Clark, Lana and Becky. Ryan’s wife, Shabree, also is involved with Moss Farms.