Potato commission proposal makes sense

Ultimately it’s up to the growers to decide whether their investment is paying off.

Published on March 8, 2018 10:22AM

Last changed on March 8, 2018 10:28AM

Potatoes are harvested in Pingree, Idaho. Some Eastern Idaho farmers are seeking to change how members of the Idaho Potato Commission are chosen and the areas they represent.

Capital Press File

Potatoes are harvested in Pingree, Idaho. Some Eastern Idaho farmers are seeking to change how members of the Idaho Potato Commission are chosen and the areas they represent.

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A group of Eastern Idaho farmers wants to change the composition of the powerful Idaho Potato Commission and provide for the direct election of its members.

We find it difficult to argue against the logic of their proposal.

The Idaho Potato Commission is a state agency formed in 1937. It’s responsible for promoting and safeguarding the Idaho potato brand.

Its efforts are funded by an assessment of 12.5 cents per every 100 pounds of potatoes Idaho farmers grow. It has a budget of $15 million.

There are nine commission members — five grower representatives, two potato shipper representatives and two potato processor representatives.

The growers from Eastern Idaho say they are underrepresented, as most of the potatoes are grown in their part of the state.

They also take issue with how commission members are selected. The commission positions are political appointments. Growers, shippers and processors nominate three candidates to fill openings, but it’s the governor who makes the final selection.

A group of growers is circulating a petition calling for the direct election of commissioners by the members of the segments of the industry they represent.

They also want more grower representation. They propose dividing growers into seven districts, each representing about 14 percent of the state’s spud production.

“Government closest to the people does the best job. It would be the same principle with the potato commission,” said Stephanie Mickelsen, a potato grower near Idaho Falls who supports the effort.

That makes sense. Farmers are growing the potatoes and paying the bills to promote their crop here and abroad. The people overseeing that effort should answer directly to farmers, not governors.

We have no opinion on complaints that the commission assessments are too high.

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the Big Idaho Potato Truck are high-profile promotions that critics like to debate. We think that’s a little unfair because direct efforts with retailers and other buyers are quite substantial.

Petitioners claim their returns are lower than those in other potato producing states, but their assessments are higher. They aren’t calling for reducing the assessments, but are using the data to buttress their argument that they need greater direct representation.

That’s a fair point. Ultimately it’s up to the growers to decide whether their investment is paying off. If growers have greater trust in the system of governance they will have greater trust that the commission is working in their interest.



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