Maine Industry Leaders Recognized
Last week, U.S. potato growers and allied partners from across the country united as an industry to fulfill NPC’s mission of “Standing Up for Potatoes on Capitol Hill.” The 2022 Washington Summit, Feb. 28-March 3, provided a forum for potato industry members to discuss, define, and advocate for the policy priorities impacting their businesses and protecting their ability to farm.
During the first day’s Meeting of the Voting Delegates, 2021 President Dominic LaJoie passed the gavel to incoming President, Jared Balcom. LaJoie also hosted the council’s annual Awards Dinner, where individuals were recognized for their work for the industry. President’s Awards were announced for Maine potato researcher James “Jim” Dwyer (deceased), Regional Representative and Casework Supervisor for Senator Angus King (I-Maine) Sharon Campbell, and Maine Potato Board Director of Operations Jeannie Tapley. Don Flannery, Executive Director of the Maine Potato Board, was honored with NPC’s. Gold Potato Award for his leadership.
Later in the week, long-time potato industry champion Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also addressed the group and congratulated outgoing NPC President and Maine potato grower Dominic LaJoie for a successful term leading the organization.
The next day, attendees of the Trade Affairs Committee were joined by Kevin Shea, Administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), who addressed the Administration’s trade efforts with Prince Edward Island and Mexico. Rod Snyder, Agriculture Advisor to the U.S. EPA Administrator, and John Mesko, Executive Director of the Potato Sustainability Alliance, addressed the Environmental Affairs Committee on their organizations’ priorities.
On Wednesday at the Capitol Hill Club, attendees were updated on a number of the council’s policy priorities. Maggie Sommers Gentile, Vice President of Food and Nutrition Policy at Food Directions, led a discussion on key bills and potential regulations that could impact U.S. nutrition policy. Chelsie Keys, Republican Policy Director for the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, covered the key priorities for the potato industry under the committee’s jurisdiction, including the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill process, nutrition priorities, and prospects for climate legislation and other issues impacting the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Later that morning, NPC’s Kam Quarles was joined by Robert Guenther, Chief Public Policy Officer of the International Fresh Produce Association, and Randy Russell, President of The Russell Group, for a session on the key decision points as Congress begins the twice-a-decade rewrite of U.S. agricultural policy through the Farm Bill. Before the lunch break, leaders of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) – Mary Nowak, Director of Government Affairs for the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Jonathan Sarager, Director of Federal Government Affairs at Western Growers, and Mike Wenkel, NPC COO – discussed the ongoing efforts by agriculture to move legislation through Congress to address the workforce crisis.
During the keynote lunch, sponsored by Syngenta, Amy Walter, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, provided attendees her unique analysis of the issues, trends and events that are shaping today’s tumultuous political environment.
That afternoon, Member of Congress joined the group to address their priorities and hear from attendees on their policy concerns. In attendance were Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.). Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Penn.), Republican Leader of the House Agriculture Committee. During the evening’s Standing Up for Potatoes on Capitol Hill Reception, sponsored by McCain Foods, attendees were joined by more than 16 Members of Congress including Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) and House Ag Committee Republican Leader Thompson. Long-time potato industry champion Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also addressed the group and congratulated outgoing NPC President and Maine potato grower Dominic LaJoie for a successful term leading the organization.
On Thursday, conference attendees took to Capitol Hill to meet with dozens of Members and staff to advocate for the industry’s policy priorities. The complete photo album can be found on NPC’s Facebook page.