Idaho Potato Commission Strives to Get Spuds Back on Menu


Despite the decline in demand for potatoes in recent years, the Idaho Potato Commission is doing its utmost to uphold support for the spud.

"I've travelled to a lot of countries, and as soon as I say Idaho--they say potato," said Frank Muir, president of the Idaho Potato Commission.

Potatoes are a big part of the Idaho economy--in 2011 the crop was worth $912 million for the state. This year is more challenging, however.

"We planted 25,000 acres more than last year. We also had a higher yield and Mother Nature blessed us with an abundant beautiful crop."

Paul Patterson, agricultural economist at the University of Idaho, says that the rules of economics led the growers to plant more acres this year.

"It's the decision of individual farmers that think if they're the only ones who produce a few more acres of potatoes and the prices stay high, then they're going to make more money," said Patterson.

Of course, this is not how it translates in reality. If a large majority of growers increase their acreage, the result is a price decrease, which is what is happening this year, though the Idaho Potato Commission is doing its best to ensure that damage is minimized.

"We're now on national cable television--featuring our great big 6-ton Idaho potato," said Muir.

"We're also doing what is called a bin promotion, and that's where you go into retailers across America and offer to bring in these larger-size potatoes in big display bins. This allows retailers more easily to bring in more potatoes," said Muir.

"It's definitely increasing awareness, it's increasing consumption and demand for Idaho potatoes," he added.

Muir says that the results of the campaign are visible in a rise in potato sales over the last few weeks.