PGI, UNITED Hold Annual Meetings

Published online: Nov 18, 2005
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The Potato Growers of Idaho and United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho convened at the Red Lion Inn in Pocatello, ID, November 16-17. This event marks the 44th annual meeting for PGI and the first annual meeting for UNITED. Joint meetings with the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative, United States Potato Board, were also held Potato Marketing Company

In its meeting, SIPCO approved the formation of a committee to be headed by Jim Chapman, former PGI executive director and a marketing consultant. The committee will research current processor contracts in southern Idaho to determine the feasibility of price structure and other grower incentives. SIPCO is committed to, and supports the supply management role of its sister organization, UNITED.

The first annual UNITED meeting presented a strong case for supporting continued supply management. Growers were encouraged to plant 10 percent less than their 2004 base acreage.

President and CEO Jerry Wright demonstrated how some growers may perceive they aren't the problem and might plan to increase 50 acres over their base. If 600 growers plant 50 acres, that results in a state wide increase of 30,000 acres.

At the state average yield of 355 cwt, there will be 10,650,000 cwt more potatoes to market - excess supply the growers would be required to buy off the market. This is what occured with the 2004 crop.

"The huge threat on acreage expansion is NOT just the large corporate grower, it's anyone who plants 20, 30, or 50 extra acres," Wright said.

Wright also discussed a National Shipping Plan to ensure growers attain the highest possible price and to preclude running out of crop before the end of the year.

"If we ship at the same rates and in the same seasonal patterns, we will run out of potatoes in Idaho before July and give away millions of dollars selling spuds cheaper than the market will pay," Wright said. "Sheds have continued to operate to move volume instead of price."

A review of the UNITED programs reveals tremendous gain for growers and makes the case for continued supply management. Thanks to UNITED efforts, the grower returns index has increased $4.06 per cwt over last year. The 3 percent check-off of $0.201 has been a great investment by growers. The industry realized a 2020 percent return on its investment.

PGI's 2005 has been a very productive year. The organization was successful in gaining an NRCS cost share program that encourages growers to use green manures for biofumigation. This success culminates from several years of efforts by PGI.

The CREP Program, an enhanced program for irrigated land has been approved. PGI also was successful in gaining funding for growers through the Trade Adjustment Assistance program.

In a meeting with growers, processor McCain Foods established PGI's IPM plan and practices guidelines as its benchmark for its growers to establish a proactive approach that demonstrates involvement and improvement to customers.

Growers will receive $50 for simply filling out the IPM workbook, and the top three submissions will be awarded with cash prizes for demonstrating sound practices and programs.

PGI passed several resolutions in its meeting. The state board organization will now be included with the general membership and the executive committee has the authority to conduct business between annual meetings.

PGI will consolidate its office with other interested grower organizations to maximize the use of facilities, meetings, and staff for the benefit of growers. PGI will be working with the other organizations to eliminate the duplication of dues and check-offs while maintaining its organization to perform essential functions.

PGI will work with the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to eliminate potential advantage of the Adjusted Gross Revenue program in selected pilot program areas. PGI will also oppose any attempts to ammend the 2007 Farm Bill to include the planting of fruits and vegetables on program base acres in other areas of the country. Legislation to increase the state of Idaho's emergency fund from $500,000 to $5,000,000 will also be supported by the PGI.

Norm Semanko with the Idaho Water Users Association discussed threats and litigation to Idaho water by environmental groups in the Northwest. These radical groups and the rulings of a federal judge threaten irrigator's water rights. The IWUA encourages growers to stay informed on Idaho's water issues.

During the PGI banquet, Mike Telford, a seed grower near Paul, ID, was honored as the 2005 Grower of the Year, and Ray Hess, a seed grower near Ashton, ID, was honored as the 2005 Seed Grower of the Year. Hess was also nominated and elected as PGI's new president replacing Doug Hanks who served a two year term.

Don Aslett, cleaning tycoon extrordinaire was the key note speaker during the banquet. He advised growers to celebrate their industry and create an atmosphere of fun and fulfillment. He encouraged growers to collect humorous, enjoyable stories that will draw public acclaim and excitement.