Published online: Oct 02, 2011 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting, Seed Potatoes, Potato Equipment
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EAGLE, Idaho-Move over, Oscar Mayer; Your Weinermobile is about to have some competition. A giant potato, hauled on a semi, will hit the road in 2012 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Idaho Potato Commission marketing Gem State potatoes.

Frank Muir, head of the group, told Monday that there is a $700,000 budget for the 2012 anniversary celebration, which includes the cost of taking the giant potato across the country. The commission is spending $269,200 to design, decorate and build the custom tractor trailer along with the potato.

After its completion, the group will spend a project $58,000 in fuel for the diesel truck, which has planned stops in New York, Florida, the West Coast and several locations in between.

The idea for the project, Idaho officials said, came from an old postcard that showed a giant potato chained to the back of a truck.

Muir said the giant potato truck tour will mean more income for Idaho's producers. "Our objective with everything we do is to increase sales of Idaho potatoes," Muir explained. "This tour will likely generate the largest amount of publicity impressions from any single program we have ever executed."

The commission is also making a $100,000 donation to Meals on Wheels in conjunction with the anniversary celebration. "By working with Meals on Wheels, we are also raising awareness for a very worthy cause," Muir concluded.

The truck will be unveiled Dec. 17 in Boise at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Game, a college football matchup inside Bronco Stadium. Muir told The Produce News that he wants the cameras of ESPN, a national sports network, to see the potato truck and give it national attention.

This is the second major public relationship move made by the commission this year. In August, the group announced a deal to take over the naming rights of the December college football bowl game. Days later, the Capital Press, an agriculture news service, reported the deal with worth $2.49 million through six years.

As part of the package for the naming rights, the commission gets five 30-second television advertising spots on ESPN during the game, along with four radio ads slots.

Muir told the Capital Press that the bowl is a significant investment for Idaho's agricultural market. "The commission believes we are getting a very, very good value for growers," he told the news outlet. "It leverages the state's two famous icons, potatoes and Bronco Stadium's blue turf, in a powerful image to consumers."

The commission receives no state money, but is funded through a tax on potatoes produced by Gem State growers. The current rate is 12.5 cents per 100 pounds of potatoes produced. The commission's budget for this year is more than $14 million.