Salt Lake City March 4, 2008 - United Potato Growers of America has held two meetings with the United States Department of Agriculture to improve potato data gathering and reporting. As a result of the meetings, potato reporting categories will be revised to separate out red, russet, yellow and white potatoes.
In addition, the USDA agreed to coordinate the activities of the Marketing Order Administration Branch with the Market News Service to improve the accuracy and timeliness of fresh market potato shipments from Canada.
"United members have made great strides in the last three years to better bring into balance supplies with consumer demand in the United States. During that same time, retailer sales data has shown a shift in sales between the different varieties of potatoes.
"Unfortunately, that data does not include what is happening in the important food service market, leaving growers with only a partial picture of what is really happening in the marketplace. By reporting data specific to the four basic varieties of potatoes (red, russet, yellow and white) the USDA is providing data that is critical for grower planting decisions," said Lee Frankel, UPGA president and chief executive officer. "By knowing the volumes of varieties shipped, potato growers will better be able to market their crop in a profitable manner."
The meetings were held in late February in two locations. In Salt Lake City at UPGA's national headquarters, on Feb. 21-22, UPGA leaders met with six members of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and four state agriculture leaders.
Among the 19 attendees were Barbara Maxwell, USDA AMS supply reports section head, from the Washington, D.C. office; Cary Hoffman, UPGA Marketing Committee chairman; and Debbie Friday and Tom Cooper, AMS Market News reporters.
In meetings held Feb. 26-27, UPGA and the National Potato Council met in Washington, D.C., with the Fresh Products, Marketing Order Administration and Market News Branch of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to discuss the other critical issue of having accurate and timely information regarding potato imports for the fresh market from Canada.
As Canada is an important supplier to the U.S. fresh potato market, improving the data available to the industry and UPGA will help growers, retailers, wholesalers and food service operators to market fresh potatoes in a more efficient and profitable manner.
Upon learning of the importance of this data for the industry, the agencies within USDA agreed to begin sharing existing data.
In addition, government and industry representatives agreed to pursue additional avenues to make sure that information gathering can be further streamlined with the advent of new importer reporting systems being coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security.