By JOHN O'CONNELL
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- Having grown up on a Montana seed potato farm and worked in the spud processing industry for the better part of three decades, Mark Klompien has spent his entire life around potatoes.
He'll continue on that path as the new president of the Idaho Grower Shippers Association. Klompien, 48, replaced Travis Blacker, who recently took a position with the Idaho Potato Commission.
"He knows a lot of people in the industry and he's going to bring a lot of good things to the association," said Blacker, who assisted in the hiring process.
Klompien's previous position was vice president of supply chain management with Idahoan Foods. Prior to that, he'd spent 18 years at Basic American Foods and five years with Lamb Weston Inc. Though IGSA represents the fresh industry, Klompien said he's familiar with that sector of the industry as a buyer of off-grade fresh spuds for processing.
In his new post, Klompien said opening market access to fresh potatoes, especially with Mexico, will be a top priority, as will working to get potatoes approved by the federal Women Infants and Children program, which has thus far restricted spuds from the program believing participants already eat too many of them.
Klompien has also served as vice-chairman of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry's Executive Committee and as chairman of the organization's Potato Executive Committee. IACI serves as Idaho's business association.
He joined the IACI board of directors in 2005 on behalf of Basic American Foods and remained on the board with Idahoan. He was appointed by the president and chairman of IACI to the seven-member Executive Committee in 2008. He had to resign from IACI when he left Idahoan and no longer worked for a member company.
IACI spokeswoman Sharon Hawkins believes Klompien's experience running an association should prove invaluable to IGSA.
"His knowledge and experience in the potato processing industry in Idaho is pretty extensive," Hawkins said.
Klompien also serves on the College of Agriculture Advisory Board for the University of Idaho and the Northwest Food Processors Association board.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering from Montana State University and completed the Stanford Graduate School of Business Executive program.
He and his wife, Valerie, live in Idaho Falls and have two sons. Derek recently graduated from the University of Idaho and Dalin is enrolled at U of I.