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Spud acre reduction cuts checkoff total close to $800,000

By John O’Connell Capital Press
The Idaho Potato Commission will have to work with $900,000 less next season, due mostly to a reduction in Idaho spud acres, IPC leaders say. Despite a cut in its budget, the commission plans a host of new programs to promote Idaho spuds.

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir said his organization stands to lose about $800,000 in check-off fee dollars this season due to a sizable reduction in the state’s planted spud acres.

Muir’s financial estimate is based on a USDA report concluding Idaho growers planted 317,000 acres this season, down from 345,000 acres in 2012, and assumes a five-year average yield. Muir said IPC will also have to make up for $100,000 it borrowed from reserves last fiscal year.

Nonetheless, Muir announced new social media programs, a national commercial featuring the Big Idaho Potato Truck and new partnerships with college football and NASCAR during an Aug. 29 industry breakfast hosted as part of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association’s 85th annual meeting. IPC’s annual budget has been about $14 million.

“We’re working with $900,0000 less this year, but I promise you, you won’t see it. We’re working to get the biggest bang out of every dollar,” Muir said. “We’re going to educate consumers that Idaho potatoes are nutritious and relevant in today’s lifestyle.”

At the request of growers, the IPC opted last year against implementing a proposed 2.5 cents per hundredweight increase to its grower assessment. Muir said IPC has no plans to pursue that increase this season, either, as potato growers are recovering from poor market prices for the 2012 crop.

The sequel to IPC’s popular national commercial featuring it’s Big Idaho Potato Truck, reported missing by Caldwell, Idaho, grower Mark Coombs, was scheduled to debut during the Aug. 31 Boise State football game and continue running nationally from October through January. The new commercial features Coombs and his dog searching for the truck.

Muir said funding constraints may limit the truck’s appearances after it returns from its current national tour to special events, with the possibility of another tour the following year.

IPC is scheduled to sponsor three college football games — Boise State versus Air Force on Sept. 13 and University of Idaho games on Sept. 28 against Temple and Oct. 5 against Fresno State. IPC will work with Idaho native Heather Cox, an ESPN sideline analysis, to produce segments on Idaho potatoes for YouTube and the IPC website at every college football stop she makes. The spots won’t be affiliated with ESPN, and Muir estimates the project, which hasn’t been finalized, will cost the commission less than $50,000.

IPC was an associate sponsor of Nascar driver Brian Scott, who is also an Idaho native, during the recent Bristol Motor Speedway. Scott wore a helmet resembling an Idaho spud and raced with IPC logos on the side panels of his car. Muir said IPC has been flooded with requests for photographs of Scott and his car by the potato truck, and the commission will continue to evaluate its relationship with Scott.

IPC is planning a contest in which youths will design Idaho potato-themed video games, using GameSalad software. The top game will be posted on the IPC website. For a planned video Idaho spud recipe contest, IPC will offer a $10,000 grand prize, to be donated to the winner’s local Meals on Wheels chapter. Winners of another planned Idaho spud-themed YouTube video contest will take home a $5,000 prize.


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