Five states given Potato Board representation

USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack appointed/reappointed 30 grower members to serve on the United States Potato Board (USPB) for three-year terms beginning March 1, 2013, and ending Feb. 29, 2016.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack appointed/reappointed 30 grower members to serve on the United States Potato Board (USPB) for three-year terms beginning March 1, 2013, and ending Feb. 29, 2016.

Late in 2011, USDA challenged the USPB to develop a plan to communicate all USPB programs and opportunities to all growers in the United States, and, specifically, to solicit interest in USPB membership and representation from minor producing states, or states previously represented by assigned proxy states on the USPB. Some of these states had previously been represented, but had since lost their own direct representation on the USPB due, predominantly, to years of steady industry attrition in these production regions.

“Each state’s representation on the USPB is based on potato production; however, each state is entitled to at least one member,” said Tim O’Connor, USPB President and CEO. “States unable to nominate members for appointment to the USPB are combined, with an adjacent state for the purpose of representation.”

The USPB responded to the challenge to increase representation from each state and implemented a “Minor Producing States” Communications Outreach Plan in order to reach all US growers. Minor producing states were identified and engaged through specific USPB communications targeted at farm media, State Departments of Agriculture and producer organizations relaying opportunities for representation on the USPB.

The first year of this outreach plan yielded five new USPB board member nominees representing the minor producing states of Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico and South Dakota. Outreach will continue to these states, and will include efforts to increase USPB representation from women and minorities.

The complete list of newly appointed USPB members are: David Bloxham, Salisbury, Maryland; Brant Darrington, Burley, Idaho; Steven Gangwish, Columbus, South Dakota; Charles Grose, Terra Alta, West Virginia; Kristi Gundersen, Bow, Washington; John Halverson, Paragould, Arkansas; Merrill Hanny, Idaho Falls, Idaho; Arnold Mack, Lake Wales, Florida; Phillip Mehlenbacher, Burbank, Washington; Brian Meisner, Wray, Colorado; Bernie Smiarowski, Hatfield, Massachusetts; John Stahl, Ritzville, Washington; Eric Sutton, Rexburg, Idaho; Brian Theobald, Farmington, New Mexico; Jordan Thomas, Hamer, Idaho; David Tonso, Monte Vista, Colorado; Dillon VanOrden,  Pingree, Idaho; and Weston Walker, Merrill, Oregon.

Members reappointed to the USPB are: Steve Cottom, Dillon, Montana; Keith Doyen, Mapleton, Maine; Diane Hanson, Cornell, Michigan; Kurt Holland, Monte Vista, Colorado; Brian Kirschenmann, Bakersfield, California; Nolan Masser, Pitman, Pennsylvania; Marty Myers, Boardman, Oregon; Jared Wattenbarger, Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Marvin Wollman, Warden, Washington.

Importers Ed Barnhill, Clermont, Florida, and Vernon Thomas, Centerville, New Brunswick, Canada, were also reappointed along with public member Mary DeMers of Sophia, North Carolina.

Authorized under the 1971 Potato Research and Promotion Act, the National Potato Promotion Board (dba United States Potato Board) is composed of growers, importers and a public member appointed by the Secretary. Grower members are nominated at state and local grower meetings and by mail ballot. Each state is entitled to at least one producer member, and additional members are allotted on the basis of the volume of production. Importer members are nominated by importers, and the number of members—up to a maximum of five—is related to the volume of imports.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides board oversight, which ensures fiscal responsibility, program efficiency and fair treatment of participating stakeholders, in accordance with the 1971 Potato Research and Promotion Act. The program is administered by board members, who are selected by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Research and promotion programs are industry-funded, authorized by Congress and date back to 1966. Since then, Congress has authorized the establishment of 20 research and promotion boards. They empower farmers and ranchers, establishing a framework for them to pool resources and combine efforts to develop new markets, strengthen existing markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities.

For more information about research and promotion programs, visit

For more information on the USPB as the nation’s potato marketing organization, positioned as the “catalyst for positive change,” and the central organizing force in implementing programs that will increase demand for potatoes, please visit

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