Highlights of NPC Annual Meetings

Immigration, transportation, farm bill among topics

Published in the March 2009 Issue Published online: Mar 30, 2009
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Following is adapted text by Todd Cornelison, industry relations director for the Idaho Potato Commission. The original text was presented in Idaho Potato Pulse, a resource from the IPC.

The National Potato Council Potato Expo held in San Antonio, Texas, was a huge success. The number of registrants topped 750, approximately 250 more registrants than originally anticipated, with a huge number of exhibitors.

The speakers included Senator Charlie Wilson of the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" fame and Mitch Smith, a top level executive of McDonalds.

If you were unable to attend, don't miss next year's Expo-mark your calendar now. The Expo will be held Dec. 2-4, 2009, in Orlando, Fla., at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

There were numerous issues discussed during the NPC annual meetings. Here are just a few examples.

IMMIGRATION REFORM

The following excerpt is taken from the NPC annual meeting bulletin and tells us where NPC stands and what action it is taking on immigration reform.

"Border Security and increased internal enforcement alone would cause American agriculture to lose much of its workforce. Imposing new burdens, fines and penalties on employers, while failing to provide labor-intensive agriculture access to a legal and stable workforce, would indirectly result in the loss of thousands of jobs that depend on America's agricultural productivity.

"Although U.S. Agriculture supports more enforcement and border security, enforcement alone would have serious unintended consequences for agriculture. NPC is a member of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) which supports comprehensive reform like Agjobs."

Agjobs is a band-aid bill put forward by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California to help relieve the current pressure from loss of migratory labor in the ag sector. It is a bill that has many positive attributes and the NPC backs it 100 percent.

TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAY REAUTHORIZATION BILL

The major issue in this bill is the support for an increased overall gross vehicle weight not to exceed 97,000 pounds on federal interstate highways on vehicles equipped with an additional axle.

The NPC is a member of the Agricultural Transportation Efficiency Coalition (AgTEC) and the Coalition for Transportation Productivity (CTP). Both coalitions are closely watching the formation of the bill.

Enactment of the bill is to conserve fuel, reduce total emissions, reduce traffic congestion and increase safety. Most of these benefits would be due to fewer trucks on the road. The benefit to growers would come in the form of decreased hauling costs.

FARM BILL

Yes, the farm bill continues to be a major focus for the NPC. To quote NPC president John Keeling, "Our (NPC) focus has gone from obtaining the money for the farm bill, to protecting the money that has been allocated."

We aren't even in to the new administration yet and people are already trying to take the Ag bill money through a process called "chimping." This is a process where somebody attempts to obtain money that is allocated but not yet authorized. Apparently, this is an emerging practice in D.C.

Also, NPC is working hard to make sure that specialty crops, i.e., potatoes, get their share of the grant monies that the farm bill authorizes.

NEW PRESIDENT

Ed Schneider of Pasco, Wash., was elected to lead the NPC as president in 2009.

Schneider moved to the Pasco area in 1966 when his father purchased a farm there. His father, Walter, started growing potatoes when Ed was a student at Washington State University.

After graduation, Schneider came back to work with his father, and together they formed Schneider Farms in 1982. Schneider Farms owns about 1,900 acres with 1,500 in potatoes. They grow Norkotahs, Shepodies, Rangers, Russets and Umatillas. They also raise sweet corn and wheat.

Schneider served as a commissioner on the Washington State Potato Commission from 1996 to 2005, serving on all its committees and as 2001-02 chairman. One of the major advancements he witnessed as a Commissioner was WSPC's involvement in government relations, both at the state and national levels.

"There was a need there that wasn't being filled. It makes us more proactive rather than reactive to issues that affect our industry," Schneider said.

In 2006 Schneider was elected to serve as on the National Potato Council Executive Committee as the vice president of legislative and government affairs. He continued to serve in the role until he was elected to serve as president. His term will run for one year.

Schneider is optimistic about the future of NPC and sees sustainability as a great opportunity.

"We have a chance to be leaders in the area of sustainability, to show buyers and consumers that we are good stewards of the land, we provide safe nutritious food products and we plan on producing these products for generations to come," he said.

Schneider sees the NPC's greatest challenge as the constant defense of the chemicals needed to raise potatoes. "It is an issue we face year after year," he said.

While president, Schneider is looking forward to getting the chemical use and data collection project operational. This project has been in the development process for a few years and he sees it as a great asset for the industry.

The finalization of the NPC Sustainability Document is also a top priority for the upcoming year.

In addition to his involvement in the NPC and WSPC, Schneider is a member of the Franklin County Farm Bureau and the Columbia Valley Grange. He also served six years on the United State Potato Board.

Richard Polatis of Blackfoot, Idaho, who served as the president in 2008, will continue to serve on the Executive Committee as the immediate past president.

OTHER APPROVALS

In addition, the NPC delegates approved the following individuals to serve in the indicated positions.

Klaren Koompin of American Falls, Idaho, vice president of trade affairs
Justin Dagen of Karlstad, Minn., vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs
Steve Crane of Exeter, Maine, vice president of finance and office procedures
Roger Mix of Center, Colo., vice president of environmental affairs and first vice president
Randy Mullen of Pasco, Wash., vice president of grower and public relations

2009 BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The delegates also elected the 2009 Board of Directors.

Members of the Board of Directors represent their respective states and serve on at least one of NPC's six committees, which include Environmental Affairs, Finance and Office Procedures, Grower and Public Relations, Legislative and Government Affairs, Trade Affairs and Long Range Planning.

Ed Staunton California
Byron Kunugi Colorado
Sherrel Mix Colorado
C.J. Robinson Colorado
Harry Strohauer Colorado
R.J. Andrus Idaho
Dean Gibson Idaho
Boyd Foster Idaho
Doug Hanks Idaho
Paris Penfold Idaho
Ryan Cranney Idaho
Albert Wada Idaho
Randy Hardy Idaho
Jeff Harper Idaho
Fred Flewelling Maine
Gaylen Flewelling Maine
Brent Buck Maine
Howard Viegelahn Michigan
Jason Walther Michigan
Justin Dagen Minnesota
Jerry Larson Minnesota
Sid Schutter Montana
Chris Hopkins North Carolina
Joe Thompson Nebraska
Bill Brooks, Jr. New Jersey
Ralph Child New York
Steve Kasowski North Dakota
Mark Thompson North Dakota
Todd Michae Ohio
Tony Amstad Oregon
Jim Carlson Oregon
Nels Iverson Oregon
Bryan Beck Pennsylvania
Milt Carter South Dakota
Jared Balcom Washington
Ellie Charvet Washington
Cully Easterday Washington
Bob Halvorson Washington
Paul Morris Washington
Darrin Morrison Washington
Ted Tschirky Washington
Jim Bacon Wisconsin
Mike Finnessy Wisconsin
Jeremie Pavelski Wisconsin

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