PGI May Shut Down Operations

Published online: Jul 06, 2001
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Potato Growers of Idaho will vote in a special meeting Aug. 8 whether or not it will: 1) cease operations; 2) suspend operations; or, 3) continue as a grower organization.

Already the Executive PGI Committee has voted to recommend to its membership that the organization suspend all activities by Dec. 1.

A general membership meeting (also open to non-members) will be held Aug. 8 at the West Coast Hotel in Pocatello, ID. It will start at 1 p.m.

The Executive Committee says it could see no alternative due to declining membership and lack of support of growers. Membership has declined recently because growers are going out of business or retiring. It is time for PGI to do its first-handler directory and this could not be done as things stood.

There are an estimated 500 grower entities in the state with about half belonging to PGI.

If the recommendation is approved, there will no longer be a newsletter, representation at national industry meetings, political lobbying, and other sundry services.

Recently, Keith Esplin, president, resigned because he could not get financing to grow potatoes in 2001. Communications director John Thompson also resigned and accepted a similar position with the Idaho Farm Bureau.

Esplin, appointed executive director when interim director Bert Moulton left for heart surgery, said some have proposed a completely new organization. One idea is for process growers to form their own organization. Another is to form three divisions: fresh, process and seed to work independently but under the umbrella of PGI.

Results of a recent grower survey showed the majority favor creation of a new organization funded through the assessments collected by the Idaho Potato Commission. This would then include all growers in the state supporting one organization.

The Commission is against the proposal, saying it would jeopardize other programs vital to the state's industry.

Despite the fact process growers want to form their own association, they have no plans to do so. This past season they relied on PGI to do the bargaining for frozen process contracts.

PGI also successfully organized the Potato Management Company, which diverted nearly 5 million cwt of potatoes. PGI has been credited-along with the government's national diversion program-for total diversion of nearly 14 million cwt.

"I'm not faulting growers," Esplin said today. "This is a frustrating time and I think most of this uneasiness is coming out of total frustration with the way things have been going "

Esplin pointed out, however, that the diversion programs helped increase open market prices from less than $1 to over $5 in recent weeks.