BOISE-Idaho Potato Commission board members unanimously voted June 15 to oppose the U.S. Potato Board's use of a national retail trademark at the retail level.
Other Gem State potato groups have backed up IPC in its opposition to the use of USPB's "Potatoes -- Goodness Unearthed" trademark at the retail level. The Idaho Grower Shippers Association, United Potato Growers of Idaho, the Idaho Potato Marketing Order Committee and the Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative have all voted to support the IPC's position.
Idaho potato growers fear the logo could overshadow or replace the copyrighted "Grown in Idaho" seal the IPC has spent millions of dollars promoting and protecting. IPC surveys show that almost 80 percent of consumers already mistakenly believe that all Russet potatoes come from Idaho.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said he's concerned the USPB's trademarked logo might confuse consumers into thinking that all potatoes with the symbol come from Idaho. The IPC thinks the seal should be limited to print and Internet advertising and not be used on packaged potatoes or potato products.
The only growers who would benefit from the use of a national seal would be those outside Idaho, IGSA President Travis Blacker said during a recent meeting of the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Potato Committee, which also supports the IPC position.
"This program helps every other state except Idaho, so why would Idaho growers want to pay into it?" he said.
Roughly 30 cents of every dollar the USPB collects in assessments comes from Idaho growers, who don't want their own money used against them.
During the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Potato Committee meeting, Eric Wahlen of Pleasant Valley Potatoes in Aberdeen, Idaho, said that for Idaho growers to support a national potato trademark would be like "Pepsi funding Coke."
IPC board members discussed the issue with USPB officials in Boise June 14. While USPB has offered to not proactively suggest that retailers use the trademark, an IPC position statement notes the door remains wide open for retailers to request it.
The IPC has requested that USPB contact all retailers they have recommended the trademark logo to and rescind that recommendation, explaining that at least one major potato-producing state has not endorsed the retail program. Noting that the USPB controls the use of the trademark, the IPC has also asked the group to not approve the use of the logo on any retail bags regardless of who initiates the request.
-Source, Sean Ellis & Dave Wilkins, Capital Press.