Aug 31, 2017
EPA staff get to see potato growers in action  

Six employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got a firsthand look at Idaho potato operations earlier in August thanks to the National Potato Council (NPC).

The three-day annual event gave the agency staffers the chance to see potato production for themselves and to talk with farmers about topics including pesticide use. The growers provided the employees an in-depth view of their operations and how pesticides are used on them. This year’s tour, which was also supported by the Idaho Potato Commission, visited farms surrounding Idaho Falls, Idaho.

NPC CEO John Keeling called the tour a unique way for EPA staff to see how pest management is conducted in real conditions and to better understand the everyday challenges growers face.

“We believe it’s vitally important for growers and policymakers to have this interaction to increase understanding on both sides,” he said.

The agency staff came from the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and included members of the divisions that handle product registrations and risk management. The tour allowed them to see an aerial pesticide application demonstration at Hoff Farm and to speak with growers while touring Raybould Brothers Farm.

Britt Raybould said being able to talk with the EPA employees in person gave both the growers and the EPA staff an opportunity to learn from each other.

“As a grower, I benefit from gaining a better understanding of how to effectively and efficiently use the products we rely on,” he said.

The program also included stops at a Wilcox Fresh packing shed and SunRain Potato Varieties. A visit to the Idahoan Dehydration plant allowed the group to see the variety of consumer products made there. Researchers at the University of Idaho Research Center explained the details of sprout control, variety development and disease and pest management. A tour of Spudnik Equipment Company rounded out the tour’s schedule.

Kyle Morford, chemical review manager with the OPP, said the tour gave him and the other staffers a better understanding of the challenges involved in growing potatoes in a desert environment, including what pests are present and what it takes to control them.

“First-hand experiences like this tour are a great help to OPP personnel when making regulatory decisions about pest management tools,” he said.

Photo: During an aerial pesticide application demonstration at Hoff Farm, pilot Leif Isaacson (second from right) conducted fly-overs to show participants the capabilities of the spray plane. EPA staffers learned how the spray can be carefully controlled so that drift concerns are minimized. Courtesy/ National Potato Council

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