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Montana Ag Network: At Las Vegas expo, there's no small potatoes

Posted: 10:48 PM, Jan 15, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-16 09:51:26-05

One of America's favorite vegetables, the potato, is in the Las Vegas spotlight this week as the popular Nevada tourist destination hosts the 2020 Potato Expo.

Organizers with the National Potato Council say over 2,000 attendees from across the United States and even Canada are attending. And for potato farmers like Shelly Olsen from Othello, Wash., there’s a good reason.

“There's always great information and there's wonderful people,” said Olsen. “There's networking opportunities. Plus you can always learn something new and the speakers are outstanding. There's always good information to be had.”

She says that potato farmers continue to play a very important role in America's most essential industry- agriculture.

“We are a huge industry,” said Olsen. “We feed a lot of people. And I think just as growers, farmers, ag in general, it is it is an underappreciated and under-known industry. And I would love for people to get to know their local farmers, to ask actually where their food comes from and to come out and see how we do things.”

The U.S. potato industry is a $4 billion industry. Dan Lake, a Ronan potato grower, says seed potatoes grown in Montana contribute to that success.

“We’re really strong in our seed quality and a lot of our potatoes then get used to plant the commercial crops or even sometimes the seed crops in Idaho and other surrounding states,” said Lake. “For the most part, Montana provides over 50% of the seed used to plant the Columbia Basin.”

Like other sectors of American agriculture, potato farmers like Miguel Diaz from Alamosa, Colo., are also facing their fair share of challenges along with opportunities.

“Labor and trade are the priority issues,” said Diaz. “You know, trying to get the help to get the crop in and then get the crop out are the biggest challenges we have today. And then getting our markets open and keeping them open, not only here in the United States but around the world.”

For more information about the U.S potato industry you can visit the National Potato Council’s website at www.nationalpotatocouncil.org .

The 2021 Potato Expo will take place in Grapevine, Texas.