(April 28) In a testament to the size of the United Potato Growers of America and its member groups, which represent more than 70% of the fresh potato acreage, the cooperative and U.S. Department of Agriculture will collaborate on data collection and reporting.

Following an April 13 meeting in Salt Lake City, the headquarters of the national potato group, USDA agencies have agreed to cross-training sessions to share ideas that could give the cooperative a leadership role in data collection, including acreage and yield estimates.

James Gibas, United Potato Growers chief financial officer and business analyst, said the cooperative wants to standardize reporting methods to ensure information from different growing regions are compatible. For example, acreage estimate methods across several states include mail audits, phone surveys and airplane flyovers.

The cooperative is emphasizing growers need to fully comply with the USDA’s request for crop information. Gibas said participation has lagged in some areas.

On May 9, representatives of five state groups from United will participate in USDA training in Washington, D.C., to learn more about the agency’s data collection techniques, Gibas said. In July, members of grower groups and NASS will participate in potato field “dig,” training to compare how they estimate yields. On April 27, Gibas was in Boise, Idaho, to meet with local NASS officials.

Shelley said the potato cooperative and USDA also will seek new technologies and automated systems for data gathering.