USPB seeks diversity in filling 59 board seats
By John O’Connell
DENVER, Colo. — The U.S. Potato Board is emphasizing young, minority and female nominees as it seeks to fill 59 seats of board members who will complete their second three-year term next March.
USPB spokesman David Fraser considers the organization’s board to already be diverse but acknowledges it has to stay in compliance with a USDA mandate that its commodity organizations promote diversity. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service oversees research and promotion programs.
“We encourage all boards to reflect the diversity of the industries they represent and the consumers they serve,” said USDA spokesman Hakim Fobia. “Diverse boards position the industry to promote and market products to a wide range of customers and consumers.”
Of 98 board members, USPB currently has 10 women, including one Hispanic woman, three Asian-Americans and one Indian-American. Fraser said USPB has also had four female chairs, more than any other commodity organization.
Fraser said diversity has been a point of emphasis for the USPB board since 2011, and the organization has “pulled out all of the stops” in its outreach efforts to notify female and minority potato industry officials and growers about the opportunity.
“If you ask our marketing specialist at USDA, we’re probably one of the model programs,” Fraser said.
New board members will be seated during the organization’s annual meeting in Colorado Springs, Colo., March 11-12, according to a press release. Fraser emphasized it’s ultimately up to the potato commissions of each state to submit nominations, and it’s not always easy to find a diverse group of nominees, even if commission’s make the effort.
The Oregon Potato Commission, for example, met to consider its nominations on June 6 and failed to identify a potential female nominee.
“They spent half an hour going down a list in Oregon trying to think of any woman who might be able to serve,” Fraser said.
The Idaho Potato Commission will meet June 19 to consider its nominations. Nominees must pass a background check and be approved by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.