April 09, 2020

Potato promotion targeted> Eliminating board could hurt Maine

PRESQUE ISLE — A move by Idaho growers to eliminate the National Potato Promotion Board would hurt small potato-producing states like Maine that couldn’t afford the high cost of advertising spuds, a local industry official said Thursday.

If the move is successful, the Idaho growers would put the money they contribute to the board toward marketing only the potatoes produced in that state, according to Michael Corey, executive director of the Maine Potato Board.

“Small states would be hurt more than larger states [like Idaho], if the [promotion] board dissolved,” Corey said during a MPB meeting. “We ought to remember that.”

The promotion board, headquartered in Denver, is supported by a 2-cent tax paid by growers for every 100 pounds of produce they sell. It represents about 7,000 growers nationwide and has an annual budget of about $8 million, according to the board’s office staff.

The money is used to conduct consumer research on potatoes as well as to buy media time to promote the consumption of the generic product. Each individual potato-producing state also has a promotion program that is specifically geared to advertise its potatoes.

Douglas Slothower, president of the promotion board, addressed the Maine Potato Board during its annual meeting on Thursday. He said a group of Idaho growers is circulating a petition to eliminate the promotion board. The petition needs at least 700 signatures within a year to force a referendum on the promotion board’s existence, Slothower said.

“The board is a 50-state board,” Slothower said. “You can’t withdraw. You have to kill it.”

A simple majority of all the commercial potato growers is enough to eliminate the board, Slothower said.

With potato farms getting larger in the West, the perception of those bigger growers can be different from those in the smaller producing areas, Slothower said.

Some of the Idaho growers believe that the promotion board has fulfilled its mission to the extent that Idaho’s markets are starting to erode, Slothower said.

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