(UPDATED COVERAGE, 12:03 p.m.) United Potato Growers of Idaho has lost its leader, and now the organization is considering whether or not to stay in business.
Jerry Wright, chief executive officer of the Idaho Falls-based organization, resigned Nov. 3 to pursue other opportunities, said Britt Raybould, a spokeswoman for the group.
Wright said he and the group's board jointly decided on his departure.
"The organization is at a crossroads, and we mutually decided it was time for a leadership change," Wright said.
Discussion of a replacement for Wright will likely take place at the organizationâs growers meeting Nov. 11, Raybould said.
Also at that meeting, the fate of the organization itself could be decided. Because of slumping markets, the board made a decision to bring more Idaho growers under the United Potato Growers of Idaho tent, Raybould said.
âGiven market conditions, thereâs an attempt to try to bring in as many growers as possible,â she said. âDemand isnât there like it used to be.â
If the groupâs membership does not represent 80% of the stateâs fresh potato acreage, it will disband. Previously, the group did not require that a certain percentage of acreage be represented, Raybould said.
A deadline earlier this fall failed to meet that threshold, and a second, final deadline of Oct. 30 was set, Raybould said.
As of the week of Oct. 19, growers representing about 78% of Idahoâs fresh acreage had signed on, and the prospects for getting to 80% were âlooking really, really good,â said Barb Shelley, chief communications officer of Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America, the umbrella organization for the state-level United Potato chapters.
The results of the vote will be revealed at the Nov. 11 meeting, Raybould said.
Wright said he was exploring various employment opportunities and would not necessarily stay in the produce industry. He said he was proud of the Idaho potato industry's performance during his time at the organization.
"I really enjoyed my time in the industry, and I think our record speaks for itself," he said. "We increased profits for growers four years in a row."