`New' PGI Takes `New Direction'

Published online: Jun 27, 2003
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Following a resourceful and sometimes emotional two-day meeting, members of the "New" Potato Growers of Idaho are heading a different direction.

In an attempt to recapture markets and tout the benefits of buying Idaho potatoes, the PGI agreed to use a grant to develop-actually document-integrated pest-management strategies already in use by growers to help market potatoes.

About 15 reasons why Idaho-grown potatoes are naturally better were presented. Climate, water, fewer pests and diseases, a Quality Assurance Lab that checks potatoes and potato product to make sure they are all within safety standards, and many others were listed.

The group also listened to a "green" speaker from "Protected Harvest," a government- and privately funded group attempting to decrease the amount of crop-protection products used on a number of crops including potatoes.

It was pointed out that Idaho growers use fewer crop-protection products. In addition, the Idaho Department of Agriculture already gives third-party audits for some crops. Others can be monitored as well.

The PGI wants to coordinate the Idaho-benefits list with Integrated Pest Management strategies for a possibile certification with the IPC's advertising/promotion campaigns.

In other action, the PGI organization, realizing that only one-half the growers in the state are members, agreed to look into the possibility of increasing assessment fees, raising the cap on larger producers to keep the organization financially sound.

During the Thursday morning session, 15 growers signed up to speak directly to five grower/members of the Idaho Potato Commission. Chairman Jeff Raybould, along with the other four members, fielded dozens of questions, listened to arguments for the need of better relationships between the IPC and PGI, and heard emotional speeches from long-time and many younger growers who don't want to lose the industry they love.

The Q/A with the Commission was polite, with many offering thanks to the five members who donate all their time on behalf of the state's industry.

PGI is projected to be about 80 percent funded next year based on the present budget structure. Some are in favor of increasing per cwt fees and raise the $1,900 cap, realizing production units are much larger.

Statistics were given that grower numbers are falling and production-unit average size is 700-1,000 acres.