By JOHN O'CONNELL
Rob Davis comes from an atypical background for a modern-day large farm owner.
"I did not grow up on a farm. I'm the first-generation guy," said Davis, a Connell, Wash., grower.
He's making a significant mark on the industry, nonetheless. Davis and Declo, Idaho, grower Dan Moss have been named to fill new growers' seats on the Alliance for Potato Research and Education board, joining Fargo, N.D., grower Keith McGovern. Furthermore, Davis, co-chairman of U.S. Potato Board's International Marketing Committee, has been tapped to be the next USPB board chairman.
USPB is the nation's potato marketing and research organization. APRE was created in the summer of 2011 to produce potato nutrition research. USPB recently increased its annual contribution to APRE from $250,000 to $1 million, in exchange for additional growers' seats on the board. The APRE board also includes USPB President and CEO Tim O'Connor, National Potato Council Executive Vice President and CEO John Keeling and representatives from the five major processors.
Though Davis wasn't raised in agriculture, he worked on a potato farm as a youth.
"I live in a small town and every friend I had lived on a farm," Davis said. "I got to where on weekends and summers it was a fun place to go and be outside."
After earning a two-year degree, he graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor's in agricultural economics, making him the first college graduate on his father's side. His 6,000-acre farm produces spuds, wheat, triticale for seed, feed and sweet corn, beans and Timothy hay.
Davis believes APRE serves an important role in countering claims that fry consumption leads to obesity.
"Here in Washington, the majority of potatoes grown are for processing. Coming from Washington state, it's definitely a worthwhile organization," Davis said. "We all have the common goal of letting the public, the consumer know that french fries are potatoes and potatoes are good for you."
Moss Farms grows spuds both for the fresh and processed markets, with acres throughout southern Idaho. Moss serves on the Idaho Potato Commission board and is a past president of National Potato Council.
"It's important to represent our growers and represent the USPB and put some money toward projects that are going to be of some value to all of the growers," Moss said.
APRE contracts with a consulting team on research and has assisted with university research. Both new board members will attend their first meeting in December, when the organization will set its budget and establish research priorities.
APRE President and CEO Maureen Storey said proceedings of a Purdue University roundtable discussion that APRE supported will be published in a scientific journal next spring, with publication of a summary of those papers following in another journal next fall.
She said APRE also plans to pay close attention to the creation of new Dietary Guidelines for Americans over the next two years and will nominate members for the committee of experts that develops them.