April 2022 - 10
Reviewing the past year
and planning for the future
National Potato Council holds annual meetings in Washington, D.C.
By Zeke Jennings
raditionally, the National Potato Council (NPC) has
held its annual meeting the day after Potato Expo. This
year, the NPC moved the meeting to coincide with the
D.C. Potato Fly-In to make it more enticing and convenient
for members to come to Washington, D.C.
The Fly-In allows NPC members to hear members of
Congress and other policy experts speak on the topics
being addressed by lawmakers, but also allows members of
the potato industry to give feedback.
The NPC's annual meeting is a chance for updates on
what is happening in policymaking, as well as to lay out
agenda items for the coming year. A new president and
executive committee also are elected each year.
Jared Balcom of Balcom and Moe in Pasco, Washington,
was elected the NPC's new president at the 2022 annual
meeting on March 1. Outgoing president Dominic LaJoie
of Van Buren, Maine, remains on the executive committee
for another year as immediate past president.
" As I take on the position of NPC president, I'm hopeful
we can continue to use the momentum we've built to leave
NPC in a stronger position than when any of us arrived
here, " Balcom said in his address to the organization's
board of directors. " Whether it's in the areas of trade,
nutritional regulations, environmental policies, or labor
rules, we've seen firsthand what we can do as an industry
when we stand together. As the country - and the
world - reopens, we are hoping to get back to the new
normal by advocating for a proactive policy agenda that is
fighting for a brighter tomorrow. "
Joining the executive committee for 2022 is Dean Gibson
of Magic Valley Produce in Idaho, who takes over as VP of
Grower Outreach & Industry Research.
Here are highlights from the annual meeting on March
1. Attendees of the Washington Summit heard from and
met with members of Congress on March 2-3.
LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
The last time the NPC invited members to Washington,
D.C., in February 2020, agriculture labor reform was the
big topic. Two-plus years later, it's still a huge topic.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act that passed in
Attendees of the National Potato Council's Washington Summit stand
in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Photos: Bill Schaefer
the House of Representatives last year still has not been
addressed by the Senate. The hope of the NPC is that Sens.
Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado)
will lead a bipartisan effort to get a Senate bill through.
Time is an issue, however. If a Senate ag labor bill isn't
passed before the November midterm elections, which
could lead to Republicans retaking control of the Senate, it
will likely mean starting over on the process. The message
of the NPC and its members to Congresspeople while in
Washington, D.C., was: Some kind of ag labor reform has
" We need to push, we need to make sure our message
gets out that we really need something to happen on ag
labor, " said RJ Andrus of Idaho, the VP of the Legislative
The Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) and guestworker
program (H-2A) rates are front and center for farmers. The
unpredictable fluctuations in wage requirements - rates
have risen by 30% in some areas - need to be addressed,
members of the committee said.
National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles said finding
a sweet spot for all parties involved in such an item as
broad as agriculture labor policy isn't going to happen, so
the priority should be finding a bill that moves the needle
in the right direction.
" If folks want a perfect bill, they're going to be waiting
a very, very long time, " said Quarles, who cited the Farm
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