As we close out 2009, I gratefully thank all of the fresh potato growers who heeded the advice from United Potato Growers of America to hold their 2009 plantings to 2008 levels. While I acknowledge and praise the growers' efforts, I would not be candid if I didn't say that even with acreage wisely held in check, it has still been a challenging year for fresh potato growers.
Even when acreage is held to expected demand, the intensity of year-long, active strategic crop management and marketing can be overwhelming. That's why United continues to emphasize communication under the United umbrella that is provisioned by the Capper-Volstead Act of 1922. Grower members who get involved, access United's data and analysis, login to our website and read our newsletters are better able to run their business operations successfully.
Frankly, when I travel to U.S. growing regions to meet with growers, it amazes me what growers don't know about the overall, nationwide crop. Too often, growers only focus on themselves, their neighbors or their state growing area. Growers would do better if they would, through United, consistently keep themselves aware of the full, national crop. This is the only way a modern grower can keep on top of the game.
I'm proud of United's accomplishments in 2009. Communication continues to be our emphasis. We launched a new website that is easy and quick to use with a password-protected area offering data for members only. We also created a new communication vehicle-the United News Brief-a weekly electronic bulletin delivered via email for members that is a companion to our printed newsletter. We also hosted new strategic conference calls that support our members in their work to better market their crop week-by-week, year-round.
We again negotiated a successful United Potato Partners program that benefited our members by reducing the cost of developing and maintaining United databases and providing free educational seminars in the major growing regions. United's annual industry information meetings are becoming a mainstay for grower education. In 2009, we hosted two red potato crop conferences, a North American seed potato growers' conference and the annual North American Potato Growers Summit.
I thank the United board of directors and membership for trusting me to serve as chairman for a second year. As I close out this year and hand off to the new chairman, I am proud when I think of the progress we have made teaching United members to work together under the Capper-Volstead Act. I believe many growers have taken steps to stop blaming each other for frustrations in the marketplace and start focusing on the bigger picture-the United picture.