Growers Host Farm Tour for EPA Staffers

Published online: Aug 31, 2017 Articles
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The National Potato Council (NPC) led a delegation of six U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staff on a tour of Idaho potato fields during the week of Aug. 14. The annual field event, held over three days, gives EPA staff the opportunity to see firsthand potato production, discuss pesticide utilization and interact with growers on the sites of their operations.

Growers provided EPA employees an in-depth look at their pesticide stewardship practices and the process of bringing potatoes from field to table. The 2017 tour, which was supported by the Idaho Potato Commission, was held in various locations surrounding Idaho Falls, Idaho.

“This tour is a unique way for EPA staff to see firsthand how pest management is conducted in real conditions and to better understand the challenges potato growers face on the field every day,” says NPC CEO John Keeling, who attended the tour. “We believe it’s vitally important for growers and policymakers to have this interaction to increase understanding on both sides.”

Participants hailed from the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, including members of the divisions that handle product registrations and risk management. They witnessed an aerial pesticide application demonstration at Hoff Farm and spoke to growers while touring Raybould Brothers Farm. Britt Raybould, a grower who helped lead that tour, emphasized that the interaction gives “both growers and EPA staff a valuable opportunity to learn from each other. As a grower, I benefit from gaining a better understanding of how to effectively and efficiently use the products we rely on. We appreciate the EPA’s willingness to come to the farm.”

The program included visits to the Wilcox Fresh packing shed and SunRain Potato Varieties. While at the Idahoan dehydration plant, the group learned about the variety of consumer products being made there. At the University of Idaho Research Center, researchers explained the details of sprout control, variety development, and disease and pest management. The event concluded with a tour of Spudnik Equipment Company.

“Scientists and regulatory staff from the EPA’s Pesticide Program enjoyed the opportunity to visit with Idaho potato growers,” says Kyle Morford, a chemical review manager in the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs and a participant on the Idaho tour. “The tour was enlightening, giving us a better understanding of the unique challenges of growing potatoes in a desert clime, the significant pests and strategies to combat them, and when pesticides are needed. Firsthand experiences like this tour are a great help to OPP personnel when making regulatory decisions about pest management tools.”