How the National Potato Council Builds Bridges Through Agency Farm Tour

The National Potato Council, in cooperation with the Washington State Potato Commission, hosted its Agency Farm Tour in Washington’s Columbia Basin. The farm tour — held annually in various growing areas around the country — allows federal regulators to better understand the real-world implications of federal policy decisions on family farms.


This year, participants included staff from EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP). Tour stops focused on the use of potato production technologies, including demonstrations of seed treatment, irrigation-mounted imaging cameras, drone and see-and-spray cameras, fumigation and chemigation equipment, and monitoring devices and models.

Not only does the farm tour help strengthen the relationship between agency staff and the U.S. potato growing community, it also helps educate agency participants on commercial potato production practices.

EPA and USDA staff had the opportunity to spend time in the fields and in the facilities where their decisions will be implemented with all the potential consequences, both negative and positive, that may result. Presenters included local potato growers, agronomists and Extension educators from Washington State University, and industry representatives using technology to solve some of our country’s most pressing pest, disease, and sustainability challenges.

“This was one of the most educational crop tour experiences I’ve ever had,” reported one 2023 agency tour participant after returning to Washington, DC. “Even though I’ve only been back at work a few hours, I’ve already been having engaging conversations with other staff at OPP about my experience and believe that what I’ve learned will help me be much more aware of the kinds of issues that potato growers deal with. Thanks so much to you [Washington State Potato Commission staff], the growers, and [Washington State University] staff that made this experience so rewarding!”

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The $100.9 billion U.S. potato industry is an incredibly important part of the U.S. agricultural landscape, providing a source of income for rural communities and access to nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. However, the potato crop is affected by numerous pests and diseases that can cause substantial losses to growers if not properly managed. For this reason, it is essential for U.S. potato growers to engage effectively with EPA and USDA staff in order to ensure continued access to valuable crop protection tools.

“It was a pleasure being able to interact with staff from OPP and OPMP and share with them the complexities of producing a high-quality, high-cost potato crop for U.S. consumers and consumers around the globe in an environmentally friendly manner in my community and on my farm operation,” said Grant Morris of Schneider Farms, in Pasco, WA. and member of NPC’s Environmental Affairs Committee.