Jul 26, 2016
Good news comes out of NPC summer meeting

During the National Potato Council’s (NPC) summer meeting in Park City, from July 12-15, provided an opportunity for growers to catch up on the status of a number of issues facing the industry.

Probably the most welcome news came in the middle of Thursday’s meeting when Jim Tiede, NPC president, announced that the House of Representatives had passed, by a vote of 306 to 117, a genetically modified organism (GMO) food labeling law that pre-empts any state or local laws requiring GMO food labeling.

It’s not the bill NPC originally wanted (it includes mandatory labeling), but getting federal pre-emption over state and local labeling was worth the compromise, Tiede said in this SpudmanTV video.

We certainly would have preferred it be a voluntary labeling solution, but the mandatory solution that is included in the bill does allow flexibility,” John Keeling, NPC CEO and executive vice president, said in this SpudmanTV video.

Efforts to move the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement forward may not happen given the current political climate, Tiede said.

“TPP’s a tough one,” Tiede said. “Everybody’s wanting to close their borders and lock down some immigration problems. It’s going to be harder but I think we’re still going to weigh in. It’s important to agriculture, and all commodities, that we have free trade and better trade.”

Despite the problems facing TPP, the NPC received good news on international trade developments in China, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia from Matt Lantz, vice president for global access at Bryant Christie.

Lantz said that he has been working on opening China to U.S. potatoes for 16 years, “and I think we’re going to get it.” He is currently trying to arrange a time for Chinese officials to visit the Pacific Northwest (PNW) during harvest this year.

Lantz said there are only two issues holding up re-opening the South Korea table stock market for PNW growers and he anticipates resolving the issues soon.

“There is a draft market access agreement being batted back and forth between our two countries,” Lantz said about negotiations with South Korea. “Anytime you get down to writing down rules on export, that’s a good sign.”

Lantz said that Japan will soon allow access for Idaho chipping potatoes. Japan banned Idaho potatoes 10 years ago following the discovering of pale cyst nematodes.

Lantz said that Indonesia, with 250 million people, is the largest market in southeast Asia where U.S. potato growers don’t have access. He said that Indonesia is interested in opening its market to fresh potatoes from the U.S. and anticipates the market opening soon.

Two speakers gave presentations on how growers and the potato industry need to promote, communicate and inform consumers with positive messaging.

Jay Byrne, president of v-Fluence, spoke about the importance of keeping the public informed on the benefits of agriculture in an era of competing messages.

“We’ve been tracking advocacy initiatives that seek to influence public attitudes about food production issues,” Byrne said in this SpudmanTV video. “This is one of the periods of the most intense advocacy focusing on how farmers produce food.”

Byrne said that water will be the next big issue taken up by advocacy groups against conventional agriculture.

“Today, in the U.S. it’s GMO labeling,” he said. “Very quickly that’s going to turn around to be issues associated with water.”

Rick Wion, senior director of consumer engagement for Kellogg, discusses the importance of social media to engage customers, consumers and clients in this SpudmanTV video.

“That’s where they’re looking for answers,” Wion said about social media. “That’s where they’re networking with friends, that’s where they’re seeing other people share news.”

Wion said that Kellogg has had good success telling stories about the people who help make and produce the Kellogg brands of foods.

“What we find is that stories that feature real people doing their jobs, even if it’s everyday common stuff, that’s very interesting to people and it seems to travel really well on social,” he said.

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