Leaders of the Potato Marketing Association of North America have set a formidable goal for the annual contracts they will be negotiating.
Members agreed to seek a price for 2002 that will return 15 percent above the cost of production for an average crop.
The group stressed the need for an increased price on the 2002 preseason contract its individual associations will be negotiating in the next 60 days.
"Nobody is going to get rich with a 15 percent return," said PMANA President Dale Lathin of Washington state. "But that price level should provide enough profitability that the grower community will remain viable and processors would be assured a consistent, high quality crop for years to come.
"Potato growing is a business just like any other and a 15 percent rate of return is typically what shareholders of any corporation would expect on their investment-as should operations engaged in potato production," Lathim added.
He said many growers have been operating on their farm equity the past few years and cannot afford to continue to do so much longer.
Because margins have been so thin, many young farmers have been the first to be forced to grow less risky commodities or they have left farming for other lines of work.
"Today's young farmer is more educated and has more options available to him than any previous generation," said Lathin. "Most can make a better living working a salaried position than they can risking their entire livelihood each year to grow potatoes."