Jul 20, 2020
New USDA advisory board members includes two from potato industry

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced the appointment of 24 industry representatives to the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (FVIAC), including two potato industry members: Julie Masser Ballay from Sterman Masser Inc. and Brian Kirschenmann from Kirschenmann Farms Inc.

“The Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee is designed to focus the priorities of the specialty crop industry with the Secretary of Agriculture,” said Kam Quarles, National Potato Council CEO. “We are extremely pleased that Secretary Perdue has added Julie Masser Ballay’s voice along with the reappointment of Brian Kirschenmann on the committee. Their presence heightens the strength of the potato industry with our federal partners,”

Since its inception in 2001, this Advisory Committee has met up to two times per year to develop recommendations for submission to the Secretary of Agriculture on issues affecting the U.S. produce industry. The members will serve terms of up to two years.

Senate COVID-19 aid bill coming 

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), are expected unveil their version of the next coronavirus relief package next week. It has been nearly two months since House Democrats passed the nearly $3.5 trillion HEROES Act, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that the House is not likely to recess in August unless the two chambers have come to a compromise on the next relief proposal.

It is increasingly likely that such a compromise will include Democrats giving Republicans some degree of business liability in return for stronger federal regulations for worker protections. Moreover, it is also expected that some compromise will be made on the extension of unemployment insurance benefits. McConnell said that “There’s going to be a heavy emphasis in the bill I’m going to unfold next week on education. I know it will be costly.”

“At a minimum, Congress needs to provide more flexibility to USDA regarding the time-periods that qualify for relief. The prior bill focused on a mid-April timeframe for disaster impacts, but we know that the harm to farmers lasted much longer,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO.

Ag Appropriations Bill to be considered on House floor

A minibus containing four FY 2021 spending bills — State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs — will be considered by the House July 23-24. Total discretionary funding in the agriculture funding bill is $23.98 billion, an increase of $487 million above the FY 2020 enacted level.

“NPC thanks the bipartisan work of the House Appropriations Committee in standing behind vital research and nutrition programs for our industry,” said RJ Andrus, NPC Vice President of Legislative and Government Affairs.

Agronomy research focus of latest podcast

For the potato industry, the following priorities are included in the bill, which are consistent with NPC and the state organizations’ priorities: $2.75 million for National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) potato breeding special research grants; and a prohibition on USDA limiting access to potatoes in the school breakfast program — the third year this prohibition has been included in the funding bill.

Recognizing the need to continue to advance potato production practices, the U.S. potato industry is engaged is a wide spectrum of research encompassing the development of new varieties, soil health, and pest management. At Potato Expo 2020, we sat down with some of the industry’s leading researchers and specialists for a discussion on the current research and where future efforts need to focus.

Plus, Quarles calls in to provide an update on USDA’s decision to revise the payment rates for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which previously prevented potato growers from receiving equitable access to relief funds.

Guests include:

  • Kerwin Bradley, Chief Production Officer, Black Gold Farms
  • John Lundeen, Research Director, Potatoes USA
  • Mark Pavek, Associate Professor/Potato Specialist, Washington State University
  • Mike Wenkel, Chief Operating Officer, National Potato Council

Episode link bit.ly/eyeonpotatoes_research.

— National Potato Council






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