At the National Potato Council’s (NPC) 2011 Annual Meeting Justin Dagen of Karlstad, MN, was elected to lead the NPC as president in 2011. The meeting was held January 7 to 8 in Las Vegas, NV.
Dagen is a seed grower from Karlstad, MN, where his family has been farming for more than 100 years. He has been involved in the NPC since 1995, when he participated in a leadership program held in Princeton, NJ. He said the leadership program provided him with a national perspective of the potato industry and this is where he recognized the value of having a unified voice on federal public policy issues. He left the leadership program energized.
Since then, Dagen has been involved in his local state organization and went on to serve on the NPC Board of Directors. For the past five years he has served on the Executive Committee where his roles included vice president of Grower and Public Relations, vice president of Finance and Office Procedures, and, most recently, vice president of Legislative and Government Affairs.
As a potato grower in the Red River Valley, Dagen has been actively involved with the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA). NPPGA represents the Red River Valley, the result of a mammoth glacial lake. The Red River Valley is also the only region that produces in volume for four of the major potato markets; chip, fresh, seed, and process.
Dagen’s top priorities for the upcoming year include opening up the Mexican market to U.S. potatoes, developing more balanced environmental regulations, and securing additional funding for specialty crop research in the 2012 Farm Bill.
The 2008 Farm Bill offered specialty crops, and potatoes specifically, advancements and new opportunities. Dagen wants to expand on these advancements by securing additional funding for research in the 2012 Farm Bill. “Improving the quality of potatoes and developing efficient new varieties that use less water, less fertilizer, and less crop protectants are essential components of modern farming,” stated Dagen. “Our future as farmers is dependent upon research and innovation in the industry.”
President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) that has a goal of doubling exports in five years also creates a substantial opportunity for potatoes. A pending Free Trade Agreement with South Korea would immediately eliminate an existing 18% tariff on frozen French fries, further opening up the fourth-largest and fastest-growing market for potatoes outside of the U.S. “Not only does South Korea represent a huge opportunity for U.S. potato exports, but the potential resolution for the ongoing Mexican trucking issue, as well,” said Dagen. “With expanded foreign markets, U.S. potato growers will be well-positioned to contribute to the President’s NEI.”
The NPC continues to be active on environmental issues, as well. From the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System that EPA is presently developing to the constantly shifting environment facing existing crop protection tools, NPC must remain engaged on all emerging regulations that have the potential to directly affect potato growers. “U.S. potato growers embrace the most environmentally responsible approaches to agriculture,” said Dagen. “Without an eye for conservation, the future of the potato industry in the United States would not be very bright.”