Futurist weighs potato plight
Industry leaders to discuss upcoming obstacles, options
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Potato growers will get a glance at the future during the upcoming Washington Oregon Potato Conference.
Futurist Bob Treadway will offer advice on how growers should react to his forecast, said Karen Bonaudi, secretary-treasurer of the conference board.
"He doesn't just lay out facts, figures and projections," she said. "He says, 'How can you apply this to your business?'"
The conference runs Jan. 25-27 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash.
Treadway will deliver the keynote address at the conference at 11 a.m. Jan. 26. He is the president of Treadway and Associates Inc., of Anacortes, Wash.
"We have seen some recent movement in terms of cost of energy and inputs and how those will play out over the next decade," Treadway said. "I'll try to talk with (growers) about things I think they can be doing to be better prepared for that."
Treadway will also address the global economy. The recession was essentially limited to the North Atlantic, which has some bearing on energy prices, he said.
He recommends grower groups pay more attention to sustainability. It will be a factor in political, regulatory and consumer thinking, he said.
Chris Voigt, Washington State Potato Commission executive director, will summarize his 60-day all-potato diet, which garnered national attention. He will also cover key issues in the state and national governments. State budget shortfalls could lead to increased taxes or program cuts across the Pacific Northwest, Voigt said.
"We're likely not to see any tax increases," he said of Washington state. "But the bad part is we are really threatened by potential cuts to agriculture research. We're very concerned that the state is faced with huge, huge decisions about where to cut and agriculture research could be on the chopping block."
Any profit gained last year by producers could be erased with a huge increase of acres, Voigt said. He urged restraint in planting acres.
Oregon Potato Commission Executive Director Bill Brewer doesn't anticipate large swings in production of processing, fresh or chipping potatoes in his state.
Demand for specialty potatoes like purples, fingerlings or organics have increased slightly, but significantly for the producers involved, he said.
Representatives of the National Potato Council and U.S. Potato Board will also offer presentations on national issues.
The trade show has expanded this year, Bonaudi said, and still sold out of booth space early. The conference typically draws about 1,700 people.
Washington Oregon Potato Conference: www.potatoconference.com