State potato conference, ag expo set

Capital Press file photo<br>Idaho Ag Expo attendees look over the latest in spud-handling equipment during the 2009 event at Idaho State University’s Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. The 2010 expo and annual Idaho Potato Conference will be held Jan. 19-21.

The nation's top spud state will play host to its 42nd annual potato conference this month under the theme, "Putting Sustainability into Practice."

The Idaho Potato Conference is scheduled for Jan. 20-21 at Idaho State University in Pocatello. The annual event, which usually draws about 800 to 1,000 people, will be held in conjunction with the Eastern Idaho Ag Expo, which begins Jan. 19 at Holt Arena on the ISU campus.

Growers can check out the latest in farm equipment and attend a wide range of workshops and seminars.

Conference presenters will discuss how to put sustainability into everyday practice by using fertilizers, pesticides, water, fuel and other inputs more effectively.

While agricultural sustainability standards aren't all that clearly defined yet, the issue "isn't going away," said Bill Bohl, a University of Idaho Extension potato specialist and coordinator of this year's conference.

"Farmers need to be aware of it," he said.

Much of the emphasis so far has been about growers and processors providing more documentation and transparency in the food supply chain, Bohl said.

Producers who hope to stay in the business will have to adapt, he said.

Some restaurant chains such as McDonald's, a major purchaser of french fries, have already pledged to reduce pesticide usage in their raw product.

One of the objectives of the sustainability movement has been to assess and limit toxicity risk, Bohl said.

University researchers will discuss new potato varieties that have improved resistance to the pests and diseases that require pesticide applications. Some of the varieties will be on display in the student union lobby.

John Keeling, executive vice president of the National Potato Council, will describe some of the national forces that are driving growers toward more sustainable practices.

A representative from the J.R. Simplot Co. will discuss consumers' interest in improved product quality and nutritional value.

Workshops will help growers learn how to enhance food safety and implement updated requirements of good agriculture practice audits.

Other conference topics will include organic potato production practices, manure management, production cost trends and forecasts, supply-demand balance and evolving food-service products.

In-state registration is $20 until Friday, Jan. 8, and $25 at the door. The cost to out-of-state participants is $75 until Friday, Jan. 8, and $90 at the door.

To learn more

For more information, visit www.uidaho.edu/potatoconference or call 208-529-8376.

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