That's 140,000 potato acres and 42 million to 45 million cwt. of potatoes, Beesley said. And some of the biggest names in Idaho potatoes are taking an active role in the cooperative.
Albert Wada, president of Wada Farms Potatoes Inc., is acting chairman while the board searches for a chief executive officer. Blair Larson of Larson Farms is another board member. Wada Farms and Larson Farms are the two largest potato producers in the state.
Among other participating companies are:
- Sugar City-based Sun-Glo of Idaho.
- Rupert-based Nature’s Best Produce.
- Paul-based Sun Valley Potatoes Inc.
- Blackfoot-based Idaho Fresh Cooperative, which represents 70 growers and 28,000 acres by itself.
Howard Taylor & Sons, Rigby-based Rigby Produce and Rexburg-based High Country Potato and Floyd Wilcox & Sons Inc. also are on board.
If United Fresh Potato Growers of Idaho is successful, the model could be adopted in other states or even on a nationwide basis under one umbrella, Beesley said.
Potato growers from Wisconsin, Colorado, Nebraska, Washington, Oregon and California all have voiced support for the effort.
Indeed, in a National Potato Council meeting Dec. 9 in Colorado Springs, Colo., United Fresh Potato Growers will be a major topic of discussion, Beesley said.
United Fresh Potato Growers already has drawn at least moral support from the U.S. Potato Board and the Idaho Potato Commission.
The Idaho Potato Commission doesn’t have pricing authority and cannot help with that function of United Fresh Potato Growers, said commission president Muir. But the commission will support the cooperative in any way it can.