PVMI hopes to encourage more evaluation of tri-state varieties

By DAVE WILKINS

Capital Press

Seed potato growers are paying a lot less this year to grow newer releases from the Pacific Northwest's tri-state breeding program.

The Potato Variety Management Institute, the non-profit group that administers new spud releases in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, announced earlier this year that it is cutting by more than half the sub-licensing fees that it charges seed growers.

By reducing its licensing fee, the group hopes to encourage more widespread evaluation of tri-state varieties outside the region and to boost royalties, said Jeanne Debons, executive director of PVMI.

The sub-licensing fees were reduced from $250 to $100 for seed growers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Growers outside the three states now pay $250, a reduction of 50 percent for U.S. growers and a 75 percent reduction for growers outside the United States.

"It has become a bargain now," Debons said.

PVMI administers more than 25 varieties released through the tri-state breeding program, which includes the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and Washington State University. The group's proprietary varieties include the Alpine Russet, Premier Russet, Klamath Russet and Yukon Gem.

Seed potato growers pay one flat annual sub-licensing fee whether they grow 10 tri-state varieties or just one. The old fee structure was "a bit of a detriment," for someone wanting to try a single variety, Debons said.

Royalties are expected to be the primary revenue stream going forward, and the tri-state breeding program will be the beneficiary, Debons said.

The group returned $100,000 in royalties to the tri-state research and breeding program in 2009.

Seed growers pay royalties when licensed varieties are sold from their farm. Growers in the Northwest pay 25 cents per hundredweight.

"The real money is in the royalties," Debons said in an interview.

Royalties could be an increasingly important funding source for the tri-state research program as land grant universities continue to trim their budgets, Debons said.

"This isn't a moment too soon for this," she said. "The (universities) are cutting back everywhere."

Royalties account for about 70 percent of PVMI's revenue now and licensing 20 percent.

"The licensing amount will continue to go down, but the amount of royalties will go up as the new varieties establish themselves and take off," Debons said.

PVMI was established in 2005 in large part because the potato commissions and growers in the three-state region wanted more control over new releases.

Varieties such as the Ranger Russet had been developed at considerable expense, yet were not generating any revenue for the tri-state program because they had been released as public varieties. Growers everywhere could use them without paying licensing or royalty fees.

The tri-state group now registers its new releases as proprietary varieties through the Plant Variety Protection Act.

For more information about tri-state potato varieties visit www.pvmi.org

Tri-state potato group slashes its annual sub-licensing fees in a bid to encourage widespread usage and boost royalties

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