(Editor’s Note: The following article is a longer, updated version of one originally posted on our Web site on May 16. A condensed version of the piece can be found in the May 21 print and digital editions of The Packer.)

(May 18, UPDATED COVERAGE) Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America wants to help growers ease the transition from the storage crop to just-harvested potatoes, beginning this summer.

The group’s crop transition conference, scheduled for June 5 in Bloomington, Minn., seeks to address the problems growers experience during transition periods and how to solve such dillemas. Markets typically slump during transitions, and those slumps can persist for months, said Buzz Shahan, United’s chief operating officer.

At the conference, growers can learn how to analyze historical information about transition periods, which typically fall in July or August, with the aim of helping growers make future transitions smoother, Shahan said.

“Growers are generally in an information vacuum,” he said. “In many areas where they’ve been out of the market, they have to buy their way back in without full knowledge of where they need to be. They displace a brother shipper with price, and you don’t need to do that.”

Shahan said this will be the first such event focused exclusively on the late-summer transition period. He said response has been excellent so far, and he expects at least 75 growers to attend.

That jibes with the level of participation in recent events United has sponsored, Shahan said, and reflects growers’ hunger for information.

“Our grower meetings have basically doubled in attendance since 2006,” he said. “Growers have a heightened awareness of the value of knowing market data. They’re more sophisticated than they’ve ever been.”

Dick Okray, co-owner of Okray Family Farms, Inc., Plover, Wis., said that during transitions, potatoes can drop $1 a day in price — but come back up only a quarter a week later.

He said the conference should open growers’ eyes to the fact that lowering prices does not, contrary to popular belief, help move more potatoes.

“I think it’s imperative for growers to take note of the research done by United and get an understanding of the market in that critical time,” he said. “People should realize there’s no reason to give the market away by dropping the price.”

The conference is open to all U.S. fresh potato growers. For more information on the conference, visit www.unitedpotatousa.com. To register, call (801) 517-9000 or send an e-mail to marilyn@unitedpotatousa.com.