50 for 50: Bruce Huffaker

Published online: Oct 19, 2021 50 for 50, Articles
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition. To view the full roster of “50 for 50” honorees, click here
This article appears in the October 2021 issue of Potato Grower.

It’s not difficult to point out flaws in the system. No matter what “system” we’re talking about—from the workplace to the government to how long it takes the get your burger at the drivethru—most folks are pretty adept at pointing out problems. Not many have the gumption and wherewithal to do something about it.

Bruce Huffaker did.

Huffaker grew up in Firth, Idaho, the very heart of potato country, where he spent his summers working for local farmers moving sprinkler pipe and helping with harvest. One of his most memorable high school assignments, he says, was designing a theoretical potato grower-shipper organization to bypass the middlemen who at the time seemed to be making all the money in the industry, and transferring more of those profits back to the farms.

In 1992, Huffaker was working for the Burger King Corporation as a senior food buyer responsible for purchasing the company’s french fries.

“It became obvious to me,” he says, “that information on potato supply and demand, and analysis of that information, was fragmented.”

This made his job as a buyer more difficult than Huffaker felt it should be. He expressed his frustration to his wife, Cindy, who encouraged him to use his unique understanding and expertise to fill that void. His training and experience, after all, did place him in a unique position to evaluate and explain events in the potato market in a clear, comprehensive manner

That November, Huffaker began publishing North American Potato Market News, a newsletter covering all issues impacting potato markets in the U.S. and Canada. Published 48 times per year, it has become perhaps the most comprehensive source of information and analysis covering potato markets in the world. As farm consolidation continues across the industry (Huffaker estimates that the number of commercial potato farms has decreased by around 70 percent in the last 30 years), North American Potato Market News has been a primary source of invaluable up-to-date information and forecasts for potato growers, shippers and marketers in the ever-changing economic environment

As Huffaker approaches retirement, he says he hopes the strides he has made in helping the industry understand its own economics continue to be valued.

“I have enjoyed working with potato growers and handlers through the years,” he says. “I truly believe we have been able to assist the industry in developing a better understanding of the dynamics of the potato market.”