Dave Moquist, the co-op’s current chairman, said United Potato has made a significant difference.“The information we’ve gotten from United has allowed us to be able to market our potatoes in a more timely manner and just be able to get out of the marketplace what we could, so I think, over the years, it has been significant.”
Dennis Magnell, a partner in Trail, Minn.-based Peatland Reds Inc., which has announced it is leaving the Northern Plains association at the end of 2012, said his company doesn’t feel a need to belong to United Potato, either.
“They just bring us down, too,” he said.
The 2012-13 market has started with prices around $10, which growers describe as low.
One of United’s stated goals has been to help prop up returns to growers, but there’s only so much any organization can do in that realm, said Keith Groven, a salesman with Grand Forks, N.D.-based Black Gold Farms.
“You can’t control yields. There are lots of things United can’t control,” Groven said, adding that potato production is not “an exact science.”
Too many factors are involved, he said.
“The other thing that makes it difficult is the flexing of the potato deal in processing or whether they’ll go to the fresh market,” he said.
In theory, at least, United’s efforts make sense, said Chad Heimbuch, president and sales manager at Heimbuch Potatoes, Cogswell, N.D.
“Now you need to take it to the next level,” he said.