Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 10:51 AM
By JOHN O'CONNELL
The U.S. Potato Board has agreed to quadruple its annual contribution for at least two seasons to a year-old organization charged with defending the french fry.
For this crop year and the 2013 growing season, USPB will increase its investment in the Alliance for Potato Research and Education from $250,000 to $1 million.
In exchange, USPB has requested three additional grower seats on APRE's board to strike an even balance in representation by growers and processors.
The APRE board currently includes USPB President and CEO Tim O'Connor, National Potato Council Executive Vice President and CEO John Keeling, representatives from the five major processors and two growers representing the U.S. and Canada.
The APRE board is scheduled to amend its bylaws on Sept. 5 to accommodate the expansion. O'Connor said his organization will solicit industry nominations for new board members, and USPB's executive committee will appoint them. He anticipates they'll be chosen based on geographic distribution and leadership experience, with an emphasis on processed growers.
USPB made the decision to invest more in APRE during a recent meeting in Klamath Falls, Ore.
"We believe that APRE can and will serve a valuable place in our industry's structure," O'Connor said. "There was a lot of discussion in where APRE would go as a new organization, and in order to have a say you have to be at the table."
Keith McGovern, with R.D. Offutt, in Fargo, N.D., represents U.S. growers on APRE and would like to remain on the board.
"It was a very positive experience for me going through the process of trying to bring the processing industry, the research industry, the USPB and the growers together on a project," McGovern said. "My whole goal is to improve the perception of processed potatoes."
O'Connor would like to see APRE increase its emphasis on research.
"The image of the french fry was under duress from a number of sources, particularly around the discussions about the role french fries might play in contributing toward obesity," O'Connor said. "French fries are better today than they used to be. Changes have been made. That story needs to be told."
APRE President and CEO Maureen Storey said the organization launched a website, www.apre.org, in June and will soon add videos featuring dietitians describing how potatoes fit into new USDA guidelines.
She noted APRE has funded research with Texas A&M on lunch plate waste in schools, anticipating it will show children are more apt to eat dishes with potatoes than other vegetables. APRE also financed a roundtable discussion with Purdue University featuring nutrition experts and researchers who outlined research priorities about the dietary benefits of white vegetables. Storey said 11 papers will be published and peer reviewed based on that discussion.
Storey has no staff but contracts with a consulting team.
According to data from a government report, analyzed and publicized by APRE, U.S. children get 1.5 percent of their calories from fries.
"People are not getting very many calories from french fried potatoes. That's kind of the myth we're trying to address with research," Storey said.