Aug 2, 2022
A proven idea: Strength in producer unity

It’s not about ideas. What matters is making ideas happen. How many good ideas have occurred that were never acted upon? No one knows because they were never acted upon. How many good ideas were acted upon that we know about? A lot. It doesn’t take much research to track those ideas that chartered mankind’s progress from hunter/gatherers living in caves to executives in pin-striped suits working on Wall Street.

It’s also easy to track bad ideas. World Wars I, II, and the current war in Ukraine come to mind. How about the current economic grief resting upon the world? What were the bad ideas that made that happen? Who came up with those doozies? More importantly, will they be held accountable? Not likely that anyone will be held accountable because those ideas came from politicians, and politicians are slippery critters from the start. Unlike politicians getting through this economic crisis by being slippery, being slippery will not help the potato producer. Being smart will.

Regardless of how the world got into this economic mess, it is in it, and deeply so. From where the potato producer stands, few options are open to him that would alter the big picture. But what about the smaller picture? What about the immediate economy surrounding the potato producer? Here is a proven idea that will protect and prosper the potato producer despite the world about him falling on hard times.

Remember the adage: ‘the guy with the gold makes the rules’? In the potato business, who is it that has the gold? One might think that because buyers offer money (gold) for one’s potatoes, that they are supreme in the potato industry. But are they, really? In fact, they are middlemen. While middlemen are vital as they link producers with consumers, they do so with minimal risk. Not so with the producer, he faces risk at every turn. In whatever way middlemen link producers with consumers, the middleman’s compensation is best negotiated from a point of strength. How does this happen?

It happens when producers negotiate as a production entity, not as an individual producer. The ‘divide and conquer’ technique works on behalf of middlemen when a producer allows himself to be separated from the strength of fellow producers. We have all seen video of African water buffalos forming a ring, horns pointing outward, successfully fending off attacking lions. We have also seen video of the individual water buffalo leaving the herd to challenge oncoming lions only to become dinner.

As with every other North American businessman, the North American potato producer finds himself in unprecedented economic times. Everyone hopes that the ship will soon right itself. But hope is not a strategy. Hope has never paid off a credit line, nor serviced a mortgage, nor replaced aging equipment. It is good business management that makes these things happen, and good business management begins with producers negotiating unitedly. Such cohesiveness will not only guide the potato producer safely through this economic ordeal but will prosper him throughout.

Remember the water buffalo!

– Buzz Shahan, United Potato Growers of America


75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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