Potato Grower

March 2013

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National Potato Council  by Randy Mullen, NPC President Across the Goal Line 2012 efforts set stage for 2013 victories During his final address to potato growers in January 2012 NPC President Steve Crane of Maine compared last year's efforts to address the industry's federal policy priorities to a football game: he said we drove a number of our priorities down the field only to have them stopped right before the goal line. The farm bill, the fresh potato Mexico access issue and efforts to include fresh potatoes in the WIC program all came immediately to my mind as I was listening to Steve's remarks. Although we may not have put a lot of points up on the board, we believe the legwork done by NPC and our state partners will yield opportunities to get these issues into the end zone in 2013. The industry's commitment to retaining specialty crop research, pest and disease and marketing funding in a long-term farm bill is one of our industry's highest-priority issues. As we all know, the 2012 Farm Bill advanced in Congress only to be held up at the end of the year. And while a tempo- 54 Potato Grower | MARCH 2013 rarily extension of agriculture policy was granted through September of 2013, several important research programs, like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, were not funded through that extension. As the new Congress starts to write a new five-year farm bill, the growers who make up the National Potato Council will be called on once more to fight to retain the specialty crop gains made in the 2008 Farm Bill. At stake is $3 billion in critical funding that will help growers manage pests of concern, conduct potato research and expand export markets for potatoes and potato products. When we need you and your neighbors to contact your members of Congress to advocate for these initiatives, I hope you will heed the call. The single-most important trade priority is getting approval by the Mexican government to ship U.S. potatoes throughout their country. Last year, the U.S. potato industry was agonizingly close to achieving this long- "Although we may not have put a lot of points up on the board, we believe the legwork done by NPC and our state partners will yield opportunities to get these issues into the end zone in 2013." sought goal, only to have Mexico publish a market access document that held up the agreement. NPC, state potato organizations and the U.S. government continue to work with Mexico to alleviate their concerns. The path to success on this issue is far from guaranteed, but, by the end of the year, I hope to be able to report that this $150 million market is open for business. Finally, building off NPC's success to bring common sense to USDA's school meal rules, we will continue to encourage the inclusion of nutritious potatoes in all federal feeding programs, including the WIC program. Designed to help low-income mothers and their young children through supplemental nutritional dollars, the WIC program currently prohibits its participants from buying fresh white potatoes with program vouchers. While including potatoes in the program will not result in a financial windfall for the industry, it will send a strong message that potatoes are an important and efficient nutrient delivery vehicle that should be included in all federal nutrition programs. As NPC's 2013 president, I look forward to teaming up with the council's leadership and with growers from throughout the country so that, with time and energy, we can get these and other priorities across the goal line. PG

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