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The U.S. Potato Board will meet Aug. 11 to 13 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

National potato group meets in ND

LARIMORE, N.D. — Potatoes are a big deal to Carl Hoverson. Promoting his home area is important to him, too.

So the Larimore, N.D., potato grower is excited about the upcoming summer meeting of the U.S. Potato Board Aug. 11 to 13 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. Nearly 100 of the nation’s leading potato growers and officials will gather to discuss potato research and domestic and international marketing efforts and to tour the region’s potato industry.

“I’ve always been passionate about potatoes,” Hoverson says. “I still am. And I’m excited about the opportunity to show people what the Red River Valley is doing with potatoes.”

The Denver-based U.S. Potato Board, the nation’s potato marketing and research organization, typically holds its summer meeting at or near the home of its chairman.

Larimore, which has about 1,350 residents, isn’t big enough to host the event. So Grand Forks, a city of 55,000 people 35 miles to the east, will serve.

Both Grand Forks and Larimore are in the Red River Valley, the nation’s leading producer of red potatoes and the only region that produces in volume for the chip, fresh, seed and process markets.

Hoverson stresses that, while he’s proud of the Red River Valley potato industry, he’s working as chairman of the U.S. Potato Board to promote all U.S. potatoes.

This will be the first time since 1979 that the U.S. Potato Board holds its summer meeting in the Grand Forks area, says Chuck Gunnerson, who leads the East Grand Forks, Minn-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are sister cities, separated by the Red River.

That year, Jim Johnson Sr. of Grafton, N.D., served as the chairman of the National Potato Promotion Board, as the U.S. Potato Board was then known. The group held its summer meeting in Grand Forks and toured the area, Gunnerson says.

In 2011, the Washington, D.C.-based National Potato Council, which represents U.S. potato growers on federal legislative, regulatory, environmental and trade issues, held its summer meeting in Grand Forks. Justin Dagen, a Karlstad, Minn., potato grower, served as NPC chairman that year.

Family business

Hoverson, a fifth-generation producer, farms with his sons, Mike and Casey. They raise 5,100 acres of irrigated potatoes for JR Simplot Co., which has a Grand Forks plant that processes potatoes for french fries, tater tots and hashbrowns. The Hoversons also produce wheat, corn, soybeans, canola, sugarbeets and navy beans on their farm.

Carl Hoverson says a number of other relatives are involved in the farm, too.

“People have different ideas of what’s a family farm and what isn’t,” he says. “But to me, we’re a family farm — and that makes what we’re doing even more satisfying.”

Before being elected U.S. Potato Board chairman this spring, Hoverson served as co-chairman of its international marketing committee and as a member of its domestic marketing administrative committee.

Domestic opportunities to market potatoes remain strong, but export prospects are particularly bright, he says.

New and ongoing research into potatoes’ many nutritional benefits also is exciting, he says.

“It’s a great crop. We’re proud of what we do, and this (the summer meeting) is a chance to learn more about what we’re doing to make things even better.”