Transparency and Accountability

A robust set of guidelines for the USPB

Published in the July 2013 Issue Published online: Jul 07, 2013 Diana LeDoux
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Is the United States Potato Board (USPB) accountable to you? As an organization, how can you be sure the assessments USPB staff is entrusted with is responsibly invested in the programs you've heard so much about? What policies and procedures are in place to ensure transparency and accountability to the industry?

The USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the responsibility to implement and oversee each research and promotion program, including the USPB. In executing the Long Range Plan ratified by the board members, there is a robust set of guidelines for AMS Oversight of Commodity Research and Promotion Programs that USPB must follow.

Financially, AMS has oversight of the USPB Annual Budget once it is approved by the board members. These budgets are submitted to AMS for review and approval in the form of a Marketing Plan and Budget Narrative, and summaries of these budgets are posted on the USPB's website (www.uspotatoes.com/aboutUs) and made available to the public.

The USPB and AMS are responsible for ensuring budgeted assessment funds are spent appropriately through annual financial audits and quarterly financial statements. There are two types of actions that are conducted on the USPB as mandated by AMS: an annual financial audit that complies with Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS) and an (AMS) management review, which tests USPB for compliance with AMS Guidelines. AMS is also responsible for reviewing and approving any third-party contracts and transaction with entities the USPB hires to implement their programs. Contracts must be approved by AMS before funds can be obligated.

It is Board and AMS policy for there to always be funds on hand sufficient to liquidate all of the outstanding obligations of the USPB. For USPB, this policy is set at $2 million-$1.5 million for cash flow, working capital and funding responses to crises or opportunities, and $500,000 is a restricted reserve to meet all USPB contractual obligations in the event of liquidation.

These restricted funds are held in reserve and invested. AMS provides directives to determine how USPB funds are invested. Quarterly investment of assessment funds and collateral reports are submitted to AMS for review, along with quarterly USPB financial statements.

At least once every three years, AMS conducts a management review of USPB to ensure that USPB operations (programs, financial, compliance, etc.) are in accordance with AMS Guidelines. This includes tests on USPB travel policies and procedures, contract compliance and more. At the conclusion of the management review, AMS provides a written report to the board members for their review.

With checks and balances provided by AMS guidelines and oversight to the USPB, very little is left to chance. AMS guidelines are designed to help facilitate the application of the legislative and regulatory provisions of the act and plan. If special circumstances arise, we consult with AMS as well as the USPB Executive and Administrative Committees for direction and procedure. AMS continually reviews and provides updates to the AMS Guidelines when time and situations necessitate.

We value these AMS guidelines. They enable accountability and transparency in our execution of USPB programs-increasing the demand for potatoes and potato products, and maximizing return on grower investment.

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