While food safety and sustainability are trends in many food industry sectors, both are common practices for most Red River Valley growers.

Food safety is a main concern that NoKota Packers Inc., Buxton, N.D., makes certain to stay on top of, said Steve Tweten, president.

The company pays attention to food safety so its “customers don’t have to wonder what’s going on,” Tweten said.

Thinking ahead and being proactive has helped Tri-Campbell Farms, Grafton, N.D., prepare for the new traceability systems and practices that will be mandatory in 2012, said Tom Campbell, an owner.

The company has a new labeling system for potatoes in inventory.

“Every pallet or product we pack will have a brand new labeling system,” Campbell said. “We can trace to which field and variety it came from with that tag.”

The labeling system will help the company trace its products if there is a recall, Campbell said.

Ryan Potato Co., East Grand Forks, Minn., takes a lot of pride in ensuring its food safety is superior, said Mike Rerick, sales manager.

Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, Minn., and the Red River Valley potato industry have practiced food safety for years, said Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director.

“There’s traceability right to the field for almost all potatoes that go into storage,” Kreis said. “You can pick out a bin of potatoes at any potato warehouse in this area and it can be traced right back to the field where it came from.”

Those at the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association are always educating themselves about new sustainable practices with the help of the National Potato Council and the United States Potato Board.

Many growers and shippers already use sustainable practices because they are good farming practices, Kreis said.

Farmers in the Red River Valley have used sustainable practices before being sustainable became a trend, Tweten said.

“They’re always conscientious and careful about what chemicals are used,” and about the economics of sustainability as well, Tweten said.

Farmers “have to be aware of what’s going to be planted the year after and generally farmers are very good stewards of the land.”

Tri-Campbell Farms is efficiently storing floodwater and using it through the summer to benefit the crop, Campbell said.

The company stores the water in a reservoir that’s filled in the spring, then pumped into irrigation and spread out.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Campbell said.

The irrigation process may help increase yields when the weather becomes dry, and it also helps maintain quality.