Pasco farmer named Washington State Potato Commission chairman

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldJuly 12, 2013 

Jared Balcom, a potato grower from Pasco, was named chairman of the Washington State Potato Commission during last month's annual meeting. His one-year term began July 1.

Balcom is a fourth-generation farmer. He began serving as a potato commissioner in 2005.

"The commission has a legacy of great work that has been done on behalf of the growers of Washington state," Balcom told the Herald. "I look forward to doing my part as chairman to build upon this history."

Balcom is one of 14 commissioners, all members of the potato industry. Nine are grower-elected and five are appointed. A representative from the Washington State Department of Agriculture also sits on the board.

Other members of the executive team elected at the annual meeting are Nelson Cox, Warden, first vice chairman; Mike Dodds, Moses Lake, second vice chairman; Nick Johnson, Othello, secretary; Rex Calloway, Quincy, treasurer; and Bob Halverson, Toppenish, past chairman.

They represent potato growers in all sectors, including fresh, frozen, chip and seed. Farmers cultivate 165,000 acres throughout the state.

The commission is working on multiple legislative, research and communication initiatives. One of those is marketing and industry outreach.

"We work with other commodity groups to make sure agriculture is presented in the best possible light," Balcom said.

Another is research. The commission works closely with Washington State University and Oregon State University on everything from best growing practices to seed lot trials to preventing disease and controlling pests.

The commission contributes $900,000 annually to the universities. The money isn't split evenly, but divided each year based on current potato research projects, Balcom said.

The commission also tracks bills, regulations and legislation affecting growers on the state and federal levels.

"Sometimes lawmakers put out bills and do not understand the impact they will have on agriculture," Balcom said. "We monitor closely any issues that may affect us and be sure we have a voice."

They've partnered with the wheat growers to get the word out about what agriculture brings to the state, Balcom said.

"Sometimes ag gets lost in the shuffle," he said. "But we bring value to the state not only in jobs but the state's economy too."

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