Sustainability a Main Topic at UI Conference

Ag expo part of annual events

Published in the March 2009 Issue Published online: Mar 30, 2009
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Ag expoThe 41st Annual Potato Conference from the University of Idaho Extension was held Jan. 20-22 in Pocatello, Idaho. The theme of the conference was "Potatoes-2009 and Beyond: Efficient, Sustainable and Profitable."

The Ag Expo was each of the three days in the Holt Arena on the Idaho State University campus. The Trade Show took place in the Pond Student Union building on campus on Jan. 21-22.

The Idaho Crop Improvement Seed Seminar took place Jan. 20, at the Pocatello Red Lion Inn.

The conference was presented with the cooperation the Idaho Potato Commission, Spectra Productions, Raw Products Committee of Idaho, Idaho Center for Potato Research and Education, Idaho Grower Shipper Association, Idaho State University, trade fair exhibitors and the Association of Commerce and Industry.

Sustainability Symposium Efficient, Sustainable & Profitable

What does sustainability mean and how does it relate to the potato industry? According to the Sustainability Dictionary (located at it means, "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." From a potato corporation it means the guidelines, maximizing the output per unit of input or minimizing units of output per input.

What does it mean for potato growers?

John Keeling, Executive Vice President of the National Potato Council, prefaces that discussion with the idea that "We are at an extraordinarily difficult time in our economy. We will need exceptional leadership from the new president and if he can break any chains of gridlock in the city successfully it will be a tremendous contribution to our country."

Due to the current circumstances in the economy, the green revolution and increasing consumer awareness for safe food, the time for sustainability standards is now, says Keeling.

"In sustainability the key issues address what is happening right now out there from this organization and around the country and where it will sustain. We will go for the future and the NPC will be determining what programs we can come up with that will be meaningful to our industry."

He goes on to say that sustainability is here to stay. It is not a fad and most all corporations are creating and implementing sustainability reports and policy.

The program should be workable for growers and meaningful to the customers and consumers.

The core principles of a sustainability program, says Keeling, are to create guidelines that should be voluntary. Such a program should be based on economic principles, and the standards should allow for progress over time, and allow for variables in each growers operation.

Addressing grower concerns Keeling says growers are concerned about being subject to audits and acknowledging that some things are no one's business to know about. When looking at a third, fourth or second generation farmer obviously they know something about sustainability.

Keeling suggests, "Those things that you have done to make yourself economically viable over those numerous generations are the things you are going to be asked to continue to do to be sustainable for the future."