IGSA convention draws record crowdSUN VALLEY, Idaho – With a record number of attendees at meetings and workshops, the 83rd annual Idaho Grower Shipper Association convention agenda included several hot potato issues.

Travis Blacker said that more than 285 people are in attendance at the convention, which wrapped up Sept. 2 with an awards banquet.

During the first day of the convention presentations of research findings regarding whether to increase the minimum pack size of Idaho russets and how large the Idaho potato logo should be on packaging both drew large crowds.

Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer for the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission, said after both presentations that he wanted growers and shippers to “take the information home and digest it.”

“We will come back on our whistle stop tour in November to hear your thoughts,” Muir told the attendees.

Other topics covered during the convention included the ongoing controversy in the industry regarding the use of the slogan and logo “Potatoes – Goodness Unearthed.” The Idaho potato industry is concerned because potato grower-shippers from other states are using the logo as a brand. The Idaho grower/shippers contend it confuses consumers into thinking that they are buying Idaho potatoes.

During the Sept. 1 breakfast meeting of the Idaho Potato Commission, Muir said representatives from the U.S. Potato Board were meeting that very day with Wal-Mart officials regarding the Potatoes – Goodness Unearthed logo. Earlier this year USPB began encouraging the use of the logo and slogan.

‘We will do whatever we have to do to protect the Idaho potato,” Muir said.

During the Sept. 2 breakfast meeting, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Potato Board Tim O’Connor, said the Goodness Unearthed situation is uncomfortable for all involved and that his board is committed to resolving it.

“Our board discussed at our summer meeting how we can address the concerns in Idaho,”

O’Connor said. “We have contacted those four (companies) whose use of the design is a problem and we have told them to stop using it. … Those packages are on the way out.

“We also drafted a set of new regulations on the use and the licensing to keep this from happening again. … This was intended to be a nutritional message, not a brand. ... There is a serious commitment on both sides to get this worked out.”

Other topics covered at convention workshops included:

  • Rail transportation: Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern representatives told convention attendees that all three companies are investing in capital expenditures to provide better service. Specific attention is being given to integrating services so customers will no longer have problems with the “first-mile, last-mile” transportation.
  • Increasing minimum pack size for Idaho russets: The IPC commissioned research projects that involved focus groups in six cities and an online survey of about 6,000 people concerning the proposal to increase the pack size minimum from 4 ounces to 5 ounces. The surveys found that such a move does not have consumer desires driving it. Therefore, Muir said, the Idaho potato industry is going to have to make the decision based on other factors. The question has some grower-shippers at odds with processors.
  • Produce traceability: Dan Vache, vice president for supply chain management for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said he understands why many in the potato industry are somewhat resistant to the Produce Traceability Initiative and its milestones. However, he said he also knows that many potato grower/shippers already have traceability in place. For those who don’t, he encouraged the use of PTI resources to help develop programs. He said it is important for the fresh produce industry to present a united front when the federal government gets around to implementing traceability requirements related to the Food Safety Modernization Act.