January 2021
RJ Andrus keeps potatoes coming for Idahoan Foods

As the senior manager of raw material product procurement, RJ Andrus is tasked with making sure Idahoan Foods always has potatoes to process. Andrus, who is based in Idaho Falls, also is the current vice president of Legislative and Government Affairs for the National Potato Council and a former member of the board of the Idaho Potato Commission. For more with him, check out episode 1 of “The Potato Field with Spudman” podcast.

1: Can you give a brief overview of your job?

I wear quite a few hats. I’m in charge of contracts; we contract with several fresh potato suppliers. So, I’m in touch with fresh sheds everyday. I’m in charge of logistics for trucks to go into our plants. We go out in the summer and look at our fields to see how things are progressing. There are actually quite a few things that I do.

2: This is your 30th year with the company. How has your role evolved? 

I spent the first 17 years of my career with Idaho Supreme as a fresh potato buyer. That morphed into dehy sales. Then, when Mr. Offutt bought the company in 2007, Idahoan hired me. Technically, I’ve only been with Idahoan for 13 years.

3: What did you do previously? 

I’m a third-generation potato farmer. I farmed with my father until 1982, and then I farmed with my father-in-law until 1985. That was a tough year, it was the frost year. I figured I probably should go to school and get an education. I went to Ricks College and graduated from there and then to Idaho State, where I was studying business and economics, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. My heart was always in ag. My dad was a manager at Idaho Supreme and he called me one day and said there was a position open for a fresh potato buyer. … I joke with my kids that ag is like the mafia: once you get it, you never get out. 

4: What has been the biggest advancement in farming during your career?

Other than the obvious that the equipment is so advanced now, but I think precision ag. Back in the day, you’d map out your rows and then you just had to learn to drive a straight line. But I think we lost a lot of production in that because we didn’t have proper row spacing and things like that. 

5: You’re very involved in advocacy at the state and national levels. What’s been a big takeaway from that?

There are so many moving parts in regulations. It’s hard to realize just how complicated it is when you’re not part of it. 

6: Do you feel there is a sense of camaraderie by getting involved that way?

Definitely. I’ve made a lot of great friends. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, we’re all in it for the greater good of the potato industry. A rising tide floats all boats. 

7: Any favorite memories?

My dad passed away earlier (in 2020). Really, it’s just being able to farm with him.

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