Andy Nelson, Markets Editor
Andy Nelson, Markets Editor

Potato markets have been hot for months, but the spud industry is generating another kind of heat it could do without.

The Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission and the Denver-based U.S. Potato Board are debating the use of the board’s trademarked Potatoes Goodness Unearthed logo.

Idaho says the logo’s appearance on retail bags contradicts what board officials promised the commission when Goodness Unearthed was unveiled four years ago.

It’s a trademark that has somehow morphed into a brand, claim the Idahoans, and that’s bad news for its own brand.

Further, they say, why should Idaho have to pay for what it views as a rival?

Not so fast, board representatives told me on and off the record. From the beginning, Goodness Unearthed was intended to be used on retail bags.

They also point out that Goodness Unearthed, whose nutritional focus helps dispel some of the bad press about potatoes’ healthfulness, can only help growers — whether they’re from Idaho or not.

There’s no denying the logo’s success. One grower I talked to recently used Goodness Unearthed — not his own company logo — as his e-mail tag. He and other growers are bullish on its use at retail.

Already this summer, board and commission officials have hashed out the issue in Boise and over the phone.

In mid-July, they’ll do it again at the board’s annual summer meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

The commission’s president and chief executive officer, Frank Muir, told me that Idaho was not threatening legal action over the issue.

That was good to hear. For one thing, based on the conversations I’ve had, this dispute sounds like a classic he-said/she-said one.

Commission: This specific individual told me to my face that Goodness Unearthed would not be used on bags.

Board: Just because some people remember something happening doesn’t mean it happened.

I think that if this had been written down somewhere — This Logo Shall (Or Shall Not) Appear on Retail Bags — we would have heard about it by now. Who knows, though — maybe a smoking gun will appear.

Whatever unfolds in Columbus or in the weeks and months following, the bottom line is this: Just as the owners and players in the NFL need to put aside their differences and get back on the playing field, so the board and commission, the two leading potato marketing groups in the country, need to resolve their differences.

Everyone stands to lose, and no one to gain, if a deal can’t be worked out.

Potato growers not only have enjoyed strong markets this season, they’ve shown restraint and resilience in stretching a short crop through the heart of summer.

Growers and officials have told me that signs are good for 2011-12 markets that, while likely not as strong as this season, should still be robust.

The success of United Potato Growers of America and its state chapters has shown that when the industry pulls together, everyone wins.

The Idaho Potato Commission and the U.S. Potato Board need to come up with a solution in which the iconic Idaho brand and Goodness Unearthed, the new kid on the block, can work together to drive sales and silence the anti-carb scolds.

anelson@thepacker.com

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