An interview with Dave Moquist, owner of O.C. Schulz & Sons, and president of the Red River Valley Fresh Potato Growers Cooperative, a local co-op of United Potato Growers of America.
Q. Had you ever belonged to a grower cooperative before your affiliation with United Potato Growers of America? Have your opinions about grower cooperatives changed since you joined United?
A. The only co-op I had been involved with previously was a local co-op that supplied gas, fuel, fertilizer and chemicals. United is a different type of co-op, supplying us with information so that we can market our crop better. My appreciation of the scope of cooperatives has greatly increased.
Q. What was the situation for red potato growers like before United formed in your region?
A. We were frustrated at times because we didn't have the information growers need to make marketing decisions. As a United co-op, we now have helpful data.
Q. What were the challenges you and other growers faced before you had access to United data?
A. The red potato growing areas provide potatoes in a seasonal manner-no area provides red potatoes year-round. United data helps each area supply potatoes to the market in an orderly manner, though weather can still throw a major monkey wrench into the whole plan by causing over-supply and under-supply situations in certain areas. It has also taken some of the volatility out of the market, where prices get too high through short supply, retailers and consumers may stop buying and where prices get too low, growers aren't able to break even when supplies are too plentiful.
Q. Now that United has been organized in your area, what is different?
A. Communication and good data. The Capper-Volstead Act allows us as members to obtain good supply/demand data and to communicate among ourselves and with United members from other areas on how best to market our crops at profitable levels.
Q. Tell us about United data and why it is important to your operation and your decision making.
A. It helps me to understand when, how much and how fast to market our crop. Without it, we are like an ostrich with our head in the sand. We can just be better decision makers with the data than without it. Understanding the numbers helps take some of the temptation out of increasing acres without understanding where those acres will be marketed profitably.
Q. Do you recommend membership in United? Why?
A. Yes. There is positive return on investment. For some growers, membership may actually make the difference between success and failure.
Q. What do you think United should do for red potato growers and other potato growers now?
A. Continue to give members all the information and data possible, so that we members can make good planting and marketing decisions based on supply and demand.