(April 1, 3:51 p.m.) Four months after potato growers in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota agreed to join Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America, that membership could be in jeopardy, adding another chapter to an on-again/off-again relationship that began last summer.

The Red River Valley Fresh Co-op had set March 21 as the deadline to convince 75% of growers to join United Potato.

But the date came and went without the required number of growers signing up, and now the co-op is looking at a meeting the week of April 7 to reach the magic number, said Ted Kreis, marketing director of East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.

Heading into the April meeting, Kreis, whose association is not taking a stance on whether growers should join, was leaning towards thinking growers would join United Potato.

“It looks fairly favorable,” he said.

Even if the 75% goal is not reached, the co-op might try to convince United Potato to let the growers join anyway, Kreis said. Under one scenario, growers who join would pay a larger per-acre assessment than agreed on to make up for the lack of growers, he said.

At a growers' conference Dec. 4-5 in Branson, Mo., United Potato approved legal documents that paved the way for the Red River Valley growers to become United Potato member, leaving Maine and Michigan as the only major potato-producing states yet to join the cooperative.

Barb Shelley, United Potato’s chief communications officer, said more paperwork needs to be finalized before the North Dakota-Minnesota becomes a member, and negotiations are ongoing.

She said that United Potato was, however, reasonably confident about the eventual outcome.

“We’re very optimistic from what we’re hearing from the Red River Valley,” she said. “It’s a complex process, and we continue to talk to see what we can work out.”

The December action came after months of flip-flopping in which Red River Valley growers first indicated their interest in joining, then seemed to change their mind, then returned to their original position of support.