United Fresh Of Idaho To Move Potatoes

Published online: Dec 30, 2004 UFGI
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United Fresh Potato Grower of  Idaho Cooperative is cooperating with America's Second Harvest to send donations of potatoes to help the relief group and to help lower raw-product potato supplies.

Dave Beesley, spokesman for the newly formed cooperative, says United's grower-funded "B-market" strategy will purchase several hundred million pounds of potatoes for what United refers to as "B" or non-traditional markets.

These markets include world food-aid demand, utililzing excess capacity of dehydration plants. Also included are domestic humanitarian food programs.

Beesley said every effort will be made to supply needy people with dietary aid in the form of potatoes or potato products.

Some 40,000 pounds of potatoes were donated to Idaho Food Banks in December. United growers are on track to donate several million pounds of potatoes, thanks to a generous and bounteous harvest last fall.

Second Harvest, the largest food-relief organization in the United States, is participating as are other food banks, the Salvaton Army and international food relief projects.

To fund the program, members have pledged donations through check-off assessments. The co-op will purchase the necessary volume of potatoes through this new B-market program to balance supply to traditional markets with the current level of demand of the marketplace.

The action is not new as growers in Idaho have previously donated thousands of pounds of potatoes to food bank programs and America's Second Harvest.

The co-op will utilize traditional or "A-markets" for fresh table stock and frozen and dehydrated processed products for retail and foodservice both for domestic and export sales.

"United pledges that it will ensure that these core markets and customers are supplied with adequate supplies of fairly priced, high-quality Idaho russet potatoes," Beelsey stated.

Since its inception in November, United's membership has swelled to represent about 90 percent of Idaho fresh potato acreage.

"Fresh potato growers in Idaho, as well as other states, are ready for a change," said Albert Wada, United's chairman. "United's growers are going to start operating their businesses like every other rational business does.

"We will collaborate as cooperative growers in Idaho as well as with other fresh potato-producing states and provinces to long-term manage and stabilize production at levels that afford our growers stability with reasonable profits and liquidity.

"Right now there is no liquidity for the grower and he is operating at a loss on the equity that has taken years of hard work to earn," Wada continued.

United's management is also developing a long-term grower check-off-funded self-insurance program for supply stabilization and promotion. An acreage buy-down program, similar to the dairy industry's successful CWT (cooperatives working together) program is being developed for use in Idaho as well as other states.

United cooperatives are currently being formed in other states. A national federated United cooperative is being put into place, with state cooperatives as members. The national United super-cooperative will coordinate state and province activities to balance North American supplies with existing and expanding markets, Beesley concluded.