Sustainability grows in importance for onion, potato producers

11/05/2009 11:33:05 AM
Jim Offner

Wayne Mininger, president of the Greeley, Colo.-based National Onion Association, said customers are placing a high priority on sustainability.

“For starters, there’s a much greater awareness up and down the line from grower through retail marketer, in this day and age about operating green, so to speak,” Mininger said. “It’s people trying to use water in the wisest way, use the best packaging and think in terms of recycling and being careful in conserving.”

Sustainability is becoming “a way of life” for growers and shippers, Mininger said.

“If you are not on board with it, and if you don’t see it as your responsibility to think about the sustainability issue, you find yourself outside,” he said.

Duane Maatz, executive director of the Antigo-based Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Inc., said groundwater is a major concern in his state.

“There are certain parts of the state where fingers are being pointed at agriculture for dropping the water tables,” he said. “This is the sixth or seventh year of a drought. We have a great concern over potential legislation that is not yet written in our state concerning groundwater. The upfront talk is the entire ecosystem and entire user system needs to become sustainable.”

Ted Kreis, marketing director of the East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, said environmentally friendly practices are up and running in his area.

“We are actively trying to keep up with it the best we can,” he said. “There’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Our processors are working with McDonald’s with some of the things they’d like to see in their stores. Our grocers, before sustainability became national, they were doing things in that area. It’s a matter of taking good care of the land and rotating crops and using the latest satellite technology and not overusing pesticides.”


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