IGSA Expects Record Turnout for Convention

Published online: Jul 06, 2021 Articles, Event Calendar
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Source: The Produce News

The Idaho Grower Shippers Association (IGSA), which was formed in 1928 to serve growers, shippers, marketers and processors of Idaho potatoes, will hold its 93rd annual convention in Sun Valley, Idaho, Sept. 1-3.

Last year, rather than opt to hold a virtual convention during the COVID-19 restrictions, the organization’s board of directors chose to cancel the event. “They didn’t feel like we could meet the objectives of our convention virtually, so we cancelled it last year. This year, it is happening,” said Shawn Boyle, president and general counsel. “We are expecting a higher registration than ever. I think people are excited to get out and get together again.”

Asked why so many members of the Idaho potato industry feel it is important to attend the IGSA convention, Boyle said, “We ask ourselves that very question every year to be sure we meet our objectives and meet the expectations of our attendees.”

What the annual convention has meant to participants from the beginning has been primarily, “an opportunity for the industry to socialize and network and really just enjoy each other’s company,” said Boyle. “There is obviously an educational element that is extremely important to keep industry members up to date on the big topics, the hot issues, and what is happening.”

The convention also gives attendees an opportunity to keep up to date on what other organizations such as the Idaho Potato Commission, Potatoes USA, the National Potato Council and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry are doing on their behalf “and, of course, what IGSA is doing for our industry,” he said. “So, I think there are many reasons that people come.”

Educational seminars will include a panel discussion on how to recruit and retain labor.

Another will be an update on IGSA’s association healthcare plan for industry employees. “This year we have partnered with Blue Cross of Idaho and created a very unique opportunity for our membership to access affordable health care for their employees,” said Boyle. “Also associated with that is our scholarship program, which is intended to help retain employees. Our scholarships are offered only to employees of the potato industry and their children and grandchildren.”

A seminar is scheduled on “what we call the Quality Project,” which is funded by the Idaho Potato Commission, he said. “Nora Olsen and Mike Thornton from the University of Idaho Extension will provide updates on their ongoing research on how we can improve our quality and what factors will help us to maintain that status as the best quality in the country coming out of Idaho to assure Idaho continues to ship that high quality that our customers expect.”

Rail transportation is an important component of getting Idaho potatoes to market. “Most of our potatoes are moved on multiple rails,” Boyle said. At the convention, “as we have always done, we meet with the railroads.”

Representatives of Union Pacific, CSX, Watco and Norfolk Southern will be present, giving industry members an opportunity to ask questions and work together with all the railroads in one room.

The Idaho Potato Commission’s presentation on its marketing activities is always a highlight of the convention. This year, Frank Muir, who has been president and CEO of the IPC since 2003, will make his final presentation to the group, as he has announced his retirement in September following the convention. “That will be an opportunity to tell him thank you for his years of service to our industry and hear what the Idaho Potato Commission is doing,” Boyle said.

The IGSA will hold its annual business meeting on the final day of the convention. That evening, during the Chairman’s Banquet, the association will honor David O. Kingston, chairman and CEO of The Kingston Cos., which includes the Kingston Fresh potato operation in Idaho Falls, with the Russet Aristocrat Award — given based on an individual’s contribution to the Idaho potato industry, Boyle said.

There are also many fun activities scheduled to provide opportunities for networking. They will include a UTV side-by-side ride into the Sun Valley back country, a guided hike, bowling, horseshoes, trap shooting and a golf tournament on Friday.

Although The IGSA Annual Convention focuses on the needs of members of the Idaho potato industry, anyone involved in agriculture and anyone with an interest in agriculture is welcome.

“All segments of the agriculture industry deal with many of the same challenges, and it is more important than ever that [those in] agriculture be connected with the issues and be engaged in sharing our story,” Boyle said.