Vital Issues on Agenda at February Winter Potato Conference
December 5, 2013
Registration materials for the 2014 Winter Potato Conference (WPC) are being mailed this week to growers and affiliate members of the Michigan potato industry. WPC is scheduled for Feb. 11-12 in Bay City.
The event includes annual meetings of the Michigan Seed Potato Association and Potato Growers of Michigan, Inc., as well as the Michigan Potato Industry Commission’s annual business meeting. A general session on Tues., Feb. 11 will examine the current status and prospects of “genetically modified” potatoes. Breakout sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday featuring Michigan State University (MSU) and outside specialists will cover a wide range of production and legislative issues. The annual Variety Day program conducted by Dr. Dave Douches and Chris Long exhibiting selections from the MSU breeding program will kick off the Wednesday morning program.
WPC’s location is the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bay City–Riverfront in downtown Bay City. “It’s the first time we’re using this facility,” said the Commission’s executive director Mike Wenkel. “It’s bigger than what we’ve had before with a larger exhibit hall and more meeting rooms—there’s space for four breakout sessions at once. All the hotel rooms overlook the Saginaw River, and there are about 100 restaurants and retail outlets nearby.”
A WPC registration fee will be charged this year. For growers it is $30 for early registration and $40 at the door. The corresponding fees for industry representatives are $40 and $50.
The Tuesday general session will include Dr. Douches, who foresees greatly improved breeding progress through a biotech-based gene-transfer process. This type of genetic modification (GM) remains under attack by opponents even when done within the same species and even though conventional breeding attempts similar gene transfer but is hampered by hit-or-miss unpredictability. The J.R. Simplot Company of Boise, ID has introduced a new line of varieties under the Innate™ brand that employs biotech GM for superior performance. Activists are now campaigning to stir up opposition to the Innate™ potatoes. Panelists during the general session will discuss the implications of the Simplot breakthrough for commercial and seed production. The invited speakers are the CEOs of influential organizations—John Keeling of the National Potato Council (NPC), Blair Richardson of the United States Potato Board, Tom Dempsey of the Snack Food Association and Linda Gobler of the Michigan Grocers Association.
The breakout sessions Tuesday afternoon will include other outside experts examining legislative issues. John Kelling, of the NPC, will discuss the national situation, while Brendan Ringlever of Michigan Legislative Consultants and Ken Nye of Michigan Farm Bureau will cover what is happening in Michigan politics.
Other breakout topics range from insect and disease concerns to soil health, food safety, water and the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program. Pesticide Recertification Credits can be claimed for attendance at some of these sessions.
“The Commission believes this is a very stimulating program on vital issues,” Wenkel said. “There will also be plenty of opportunities for socializing and meeting again with industry friends. The exhibitors’ reception is Tuesday evening and the awards luncheon Wednesday at noon. We hope for a strong turnout. Call or e-mail the office with any questions. And remember, our new number is 517-253-7370.”