The Washington potato industry must work with lawmakers to ensure they are aware of farmer’s needs, the new chairman of the state’s potato commission says.
Quincy, Wash., potato farmer Rex Calloway begins his one-year term as chairman of the Washington State Potato Commission executive committee July 1. He raises roughly 900 acres of potatoes for the processing industry.
“We’re in an election year, and obviously we’re going to have new legislators probably come in,” Calloway said. “It’s important for the potato industry and agriculture in general to be in contact with our legislators. There’s a lot of things in state government that will have a lot of bearing on the potato industry.”
Calloway said farmers need to “conscious and proactive” when working with lawmakers, the better to help them understand agriculture’s needs and work together.
“Education is a big part of that,” he said. “Taxes and regulations, those things hurt us. Money is an issue, whether it’s education, environmental or everything. Everything needs to function, but we also can’t be taking away from the ag industry to support something else.”
The commission’s research commitment is strong with a tri-state consortium in Washington, Idaho and Oregon universities. Calloway said that will continue, with the development of products that work for farmers and are environmentally sound, in the face of more environmental regulations on chemicals.
“We need to continue to be good stewards of those products, use them correctly and protect what we have,” he said.
Calloway said the commission’s efforts will continue to support existing markets and develop new ones. The commission will continue to work with federal legislators to protect ports and avoid further labor issues, such as a slowdown in West Coast container ports in 2014.
“We can’t afford to go through that again,” Calloway said.
Calloway praised the state’s potato farmers for their involvement whenever confonted with a problem.
“We have everything we need in the Northwest to raise a great crop – great ground, great climate and water,” he said. “We need to (recognize) what we have, take care of what we have and help protect it.”
Calloway replaces Mike Dodds as chairman. Other members are first vice chair Stacy Kniveton of Pasco;, second vice chair Roger Hawley of Burlington; secretary Mike Madsen of Plymouth; and treasurer Derek Davenport of Pasco.
Nelson Cox of Warden and Darrin Morrison of Mount Vernon both stepped down from the board after eight years and 12 years, respectively, according to a potato commission press release.