Officials at Washington State University in Pullman, WA, are very upset that WSU is being listed as a participant in a new organization to be named the United States Potato Growers Research Association.
The organization will be a dues-paying entity that will exchange information with the British Potato Council and Cambridge University. Deadline for discount membership—at 50 cents per acre—is set for May 13.
In addition to WSU, Idaho potato officials are also astounded that the USPB, working with the National Potato Foundation, would set up a research agreement with Cambridge University in England and the British Potato Council for an exchange of information at a time when most growers are planting and cannot take time to investigate, let alone sign up for the organization.
Washington State was listed as a participant—apparently without anyone contacting them. They are vehemently stating they are not involved and cannot be involved as a land-grant, public tax-supported institution with a dues-paying research organization.
Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Agriculture Research Center in Pullman, WA, said there has been no formal agreement signed that he is aware of to which WSU could be member.
A press release from Ann Vorthmann, manager of the USPB’s Industry Outreach, stated that the possibility of such an organization grew out of a trade visit made by the Board and U.S. growers to Britain last summer.
“These growers learned about research which has been successfully conducted in the UK by Cambridge and the BPC for the past three years with early successful adoption into commercial potato production.
She continued, “The group began a conversation about conducting this research in the U.S. on major frozen processing, chip and fresh varieties.”
She added, “Since this … research falls outside the mandates of either the U.S. Potato Board or the National Potato Council, the Foundation, in conjunction with many of those growers, has developed this new grower’s association.
“The NPF Board of Trustees discussed taking on this project at both the Tucson and DC meetings prior to adopting it,” she added.
Keith Esplin, executive director of the Potato Growers of Idaho questioned the way this would put a shift on potato research in direct opposition to U.S. principles of public research, not to mention grower dollars already invested.
Esplin said the program would in all likelihood leave out the small- and mid-sized growers. “How can these organizations be involved in a program that provides ‘members-only’ access to research being done at public universities?”
Along with WSU, North Dakota State University is listed as a participating member.
Vorthmann said the first information transfer would occur May 13-15 in Denver. Several people from the UK will be present at the meeting. If growers don’t meet the early registration deadline, the cost to join will jump to 75 cents per acre.