Jul 3, 2019
Idaho potato industry wants more processing facilities, reliable transportation system

The Idaho Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) recently held regional meetings in Aberdeen, Rexburg and Burley to listen to the needs and concerns of state’s potato industry. The meetings were open to anyone involved with the Idaho potato industry; 25 growers and several lawmakers attended, said IFBF’s Sean Ellis through a report.

“Farm Bureau has the ability to take a position on many things,” said Zak Miller, IFBF director of commodities and marketing. “But we want to make sure that when we do that, it’s what the growers want. We try extremely hard to know what the will of our local growers is. That’s why we’re having these meetings.”

The major theme of the meetings was the low prices Idaho potato farmers are currently receiving for their crop, and there was a lot of discussion about forming some type of potato marketing association.

“Marketing is a topic people are talking about because they are unhappy with prices,” Miller said. “Everyone agreed it’s a concept that needs to be well thought out and evaluated.”

More processing plants

The need to bring in more potato processing capacity to Idaho was proposed as one of the main ways to increase spud prices. Participants pointed to a recent Idaho Potato Commission-sponsored study that examined all the costs and benefits associated with building a new processing plant in North America and determined that Idaho has the lowest cost of production.

Meeting participants asked Farm Bureau leaders to help promote the results of that study.

“That would be huge to get another potato processor in Idaho,” said Travis Blacker, the IPC’s industry relations director. “Whatever Farm Bureau could do to help bring in additional processing to Idaho would be (welcomed).”

Other issues addressed during the meetings included:

  • Immigration reform and current labor shortages
  • Challenges and expenses posed by the various audits growers have to undergo
  • The need for a reliable transportation system

Potato farmer Shaun Blaser, chairman of IFBF’s potato committee, said he was happy with the open discussions that took place during the meetings and a lot of ground was covered on a wide range of topics.

“We had a lot of good discussions on what we need to do as growers to make changes in our industry and we talked about ways that both Idaho Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau can help out,” he said.

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