Mon-Dak Region Seeks Potato Processor

Published online: Jul 22, 2004
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Proving that public relations and promotion pay off, Rick Fisch, senior vice president of special projects for the J.R. Simplot Co., of Boise, ID, will be a speaker at this year's seventh annual Ag Open in the Sydney, MT/Williston, ND areas.

For six years the region on the border of northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota have combined efforts to host food processing company representatives, government officials and interested developers.
The region has one claim that cannot be disputed. It has all the water anyone would ever want for irrigation of crops. One of the crops sought is potatoes and a processing plant to handle them.

Already growers in the region have been growing potatoes, but have to ship them east in North Dakota for handling.

With Fisch the featured speaker at the kick-off breakfast for the August 3-5 event, the group has one of the most powerful men in the potato industry not only coming as a featured speaker but to hopefully look at potato crops in the region and all the agricultural amenities the area has to offer.

Fisch is also chairman of the Northwest Food Processors Association with headquarters in Portland, OR. Wearing the two hats, Fisch may give the Mon-Dak area high hopes for increased potato production with possibly a potato processing plant thrown into the mix.

Promoters of area see the region as a common agricultural area blessed with good soils, sunny days and plenty of water for irrigation from the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers.

The two rivers converge in the area and seem to have unlimited amounts of undeveloped water--not mentioning underground sources.

Chet Hill, NDSU/MSU Area Ag Diversification Extension Specialist, says the region's evolving regional philosophy that agriculture is central to the economy, diversification into ag processing will hopefully be building blocks for value-added crops of the future.

Tom Rolfstad, director of Williston Economic Development and lead organizer, says processors/visitors like to visit as harvest is under way.

Rolfstad said the two-state area has 250 people involved in the event and works diligently to encourage as much networking and sharing because it is the people and the relationships they build that are key to making the event a success.

One of the tour stops will be at the Nesson Valley Irrigation project where potato research and production are under way.