Potato Diversion Momentum Builds

Published online: Dec 27, 2000
Support was nearly unanimous among l50 eastern Idaho growers at a meeting held in Idaho Falls, ID, today to begin diversion of 10-12-million cwt of potatoes in Idaho.

Members of the Potato Management Company explained the program and answered questions from growers in the hour and one-half meeting.

Asking for a show of support, most of the growers stood, committing 10 percent of their potatoes to fields for fertilizer. They will also pay a one-time $500 fee to become members of the PMC co-op.

The plan has the support of Potato Growers of Idaho, several large fresh-packers, and several small co-ops. Dave Smith, executive director of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association, said he could not make a statement for his group because they had not met. He said anti-trust laws prohibit them for joining as a group but members have been joining on their own.

Other meetings to gain continued support would be held at the Burley Inn in Burley, ID, Jan. 10, and in Washington state and the Klamath Basin of Oregon in the next two weeks.

Growers must be signed by the Jan. 15 cut-off. If the 10-million cwt are not committed by that time, the effort will be disbanded and the industry will accept the repercussions.

At least one grower, noticing that his neighbors were not there, questioned if the program would work. Representatives asked him to carry sign-up sheets to them. They said that it is simply a matter of diverting their potatoes now-with a good chance of moving the market-or this spring for nothing.

Gale Harding, Madison County (Rexburg) county agent, warned growers not to dump in swells or natural drainages because the nitrogen fertilizer content of the potatoes could contaminate streams and ground water and create problems. He encouraged them to spread them on fields going into grain or in soils of heavy clay.

Officials also agreed to accept support of suppliers in the form of equipment to lift and load potatoes from storages and from bankers. Bankers will be asked to coordinate potato deliveries to charitable organizations for food use in areas of dumping.