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Potato co-op planners set costs

January 26, 2005 H&N

MERRILL - Organizers of a proposed potato cooperative in the Klamath Basin will ask growers to invest $5 an acre in the venture.

Growers will meet next week in Merrill to discuss the proposed cooperative. Organizers met Tuesday to plan for the meeting.

According to an update the organizers distributed, growers will be asked to invest $100 each for one voting share in the cooperative. After that, they would be asked to put up $5 a share in preferred stock for each acre that was in potatoes in 2004.

Organizers said potato growers raised about 7,500 acres of spuds for the fresh market in 2004 - about half the total potato acreage in the Basin.

The organizers say they'll start organizing among the growers who raise potatoes for the fresh market, such as grocery stores and restaurants in the Bay Area of California.

Other growers in the Basin raise potatoes under contract for processors such as potato chip makers.

"If fresh is profitable, all segments will be profitable," said John Cross, general manager of Newell Potato Cooperative and one of the organizers of the proposed United Potato Growers of the Klamath Basin.

Grower Marty Macy said there are about 50 to 60 growers who sell in the fresh market in the Klamath Basin, and the cooperative so far includes about two-thirds of them.

Growers who decide not to participate in the co-op can get most of their investment back if they withdraw by March 1. The preferred stock purchase would be refunded, but not the $100 for common stock.

The organizers said the stock structure was modeled on that of the United Potato Growers of Idaho. Two organizers, Bob Woodman and Ed Staunton, traveled to Idaho Falls to meet with growers there.

The cooperative hopes to raise potato prices that have slid over the past decade. Macy said 1995 was the last good year for potato prices.

The organizational meeting of the cooperative is set for 9 a.m. Monday at the Merrill Civic Center. For more information call Cross at (530) 664-2881.






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