A Diamond That's Our Best Friend

A visual representation of the UPGA mision

Published in the April 2012 Issue Published online: Apr 09, 2012 Jerry Wright, President & CEO, United Potato Growe
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Visual of the UPGA missionPotato growers: Get used to seeing this image. It's a visual representation of the mission of the United Potato Growers of America.

The Acreage Information segment forms the economic foundation for all that is to happen in a given year's potato crop. When growers plant the correct number of acres, success is highly probable. Conversely, if growers get this one wrong and over-supply their markets-fresh, process, chip or dehydrated-little can be done after that to redeem price.

How does UPGA come up with healthy Acreage Information? History. Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it. Those who don't remember pre-UPGA days, when growing a potato crop was a random economic experience, are bound to re-live those disastrous times. Realize, too, that UPGA gives recommendations, not mandates. UPGA believes that, provided with good information, the grower will make the correct planting decision.

The two words in the Data Stream segment speak to two different but connected points: Good information streaming to the grower. Good information begins with Acreage Information, helping the grower understand his role in the supply/demand/price equation. Another vital aspect of Data Stream is: Once his product leaves the farm, a grower's interest must be shepherded through the market by a fully informed sales staff. Sales personnel cannot protect the grower's interest when operating in a vacuum; sales people must have timely, accurate, complete and well-communicated, free-flowing market data. Experience demonstrates time and again that the right information at the right time in the right hands makes all the difference.

Transition Management speaks for itself. Every potato grower who has been through it understands the violent nature of the potato market's transition period: August through September. Only a few years ago, a significantly greater portion of the crop's value went into the market's pocket and not into the grower's. While UPGA's transition efforts to date have somewhat stabilized returns, much remains to be done. UPGA, in concert with a Silicon Valley firm, is investigating a data collection/distribution system that promises instant market information to sales personnel and to growers. Harnessing today's internet technology only makes sense. Think of the many changes in communication that have taken place during the past few years. Why not adopt the latest information technology in sustaining grower returns?

Finally to the Results segment. It is here that the effectiveness of the entire UPGA effort can be measured. To date UPGA has helped the potato grower enjoy profitability for six of the last seven years while providing an affordable, high-quality product to the consumer. Not a bad track record. Even the most optimistic of growers never believed that such a thing could happen. But it has. It is well to remember that you as a grower retain the capacity to win or lose. History teaches that financial success in any economic endeavor happens first by heeding good market information. And UPGA's market information only gets better and better.<