A new group, the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute, soon will promote U.S. sweet potatoes generically, according to organizers.

Johnny Barnes, owner of sweet potato grower-shipper Farm Pak in Spring Hope, N.C., is serving as president of the group, which formed in 2013 and is based in the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission’s Benson offices. Sue Johnson-Langdon, the North Carolina commission’s executive director, is the new organization’s treasurer.

“It was organized recently; we’ve been working on it for about a year,” said Brenda Oglesby, sales manager with Faison, N.C.-based sweet potato grower-shipper Southern Produce Inc. for 38 years and was elected chairwoman of the institute’s marketing committee.

The group is still working on a plan to complement, rather than compete with, existing state and company marketing efforts, Oglesby said.

No marketing plans had yet been hammered out by the end of February, Oglesby said.

“We haven’t decided yet. We’re basically now working on funding,” she said.

The institute doesn’t have the power — and mandatory assessments — of marketing boards, but there will be a fee to participate in the effort, Oglesby said.

“Most commodities already have this, but we do not have any way of getting help from the government,” she said.

The organization remains a work in progress and perhaps later will be set up like a marketing board, Oglesby said.

“We’ve already got it in place, waiting to see how much we’ll get and be able to promote like the other commodities do,” she said.

She said a national effort would not interfere with other marketing programs.

“They’re separate entities,” said Oglesby, who also chairs marketing efforts of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. “We are working to promote sweet potatoes. You have no control over who people are going to buy from.”