In the words of one industry ally, Mark Klompien is a true professional and the consummate industry insider.
“He treats people with dignity and respect, even if he doesn’t agree with (them),” said Patrick Kole, vice president of legal and government affairs for the Idaho Potato Commission.
In November 2016, the United Potato Growers of America tabbed Klompien as the group’s president and chief executive officer. Before that, Klompien was president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association for more than four years. He also held posts at Idahoan Foods, Basic American Foods, and Lamb Weston.
Over the course of his career, Klompien has held a variety of positions requiring both hard and soft skills — managing people and organizations more recently, but also being responsible for engineering, operations, raw material, supply chain and procurement earlier in his career.
Learning a work ethic and integrity from his dad, Klompien grew up on his family’s seed potato farm in southwest Montana, near Bozeman.
“I always like to like to talk about the fact that I’ve spent my entire life in potatoes,” Klompien said. “Some people say that, but for me, it’s actually totally true.”
His dad and mom — Aldert and Lois Klompien — encouraged him to consider career options before coming back to the seed potato farm. Klompien took that advice and earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture engineering from Montana State University, and then immediately landed a job with Lamb Weston after college.
Klompien said he learned from mentors along the way. Leading by example, respecting others, and working as a team were some of the values instilled by Jim Kaip at Lamb Weston and Dennis Conley at Basic American Foods.
While Klompien’s career is steeped in all things potato, his profile has expanded. He is the current chairman of the United Fresh Produce Association’s government relations council.
Klompien has his lifelong roots in the Northwest U.S. potato industry but can take in the big picture, said Blair Richardson, CEO of Potatoes USA.
“With his broader involvement in engaging with United Fresh and other organizations, he takes a bigger picture view very often,” Richardson said.
“That is something I always appreciate and that helps us move national issues forward whenever we have something that comes up that requires coordination and support of the of the whole industry.”
In his role at the United Potato Growers of America, Klompien said his goal is that U.S. potato growers get a fair return for all their “blood, sweat and tears and work” they put into a potato crop.
Klompien said his inspiration is the success and long-term viability of growers.
“I look at what a potato grower does on a daily basis, think of the investments that they have, and the risk they take with that,” he said.
“Really, they’re providing food for not only in the U.S., but the world.”