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    Potato Industry Leadership Institute (Pili)

    Potato Industry Leadership Institute (Pili)

    Twenty-four potato growers and industry representatives joined together to form the 2014 class of the Potato Industry Leadership Institute (PILI), an annual program jointly administered by the National Potato Council (NPC) and the United States Potato Board (USPB) that identifies and cultivates the next generation of leaders within the industry.

    From Feb. 20-27, PILI participants traveled from potato growing regions across the country to attend eight days of industry training and professional development. This year’s class kicked off in Stevens Point, Wisc., where the class received an overview of the local and national potato industry, including some of the challenges and issues beyond the production sector.

    NPC Executive Vice President and CEO John Keeling provided attendees with an overview of the industry’s pressing public policy issues. USPB Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern gave a market and consumer update and talked about some of the international export opportunities the industry is working to open. Participants then had a chance to visit potato growing and processing operations throughout Wisconsin, including Heartland Farms, Okray Family Farms, the Hancock Ag Research Station Storage Facility, and the Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company facility.

    During the second half of the program, the Leadership Institute traveled to Washington, D.C., for sessions on lobbying, media training, and business etiquette. The class also participated in team building exercises, including the Iron "Potato" Chef Competition, where each team was given a pantry list and challenged to prepare a nutritious, creative, and satisfying meal that included potatoes and ground beef in one hour.

    Attendees joined in the discussions on public policy taking place at NPC's Potato D.C. Fly-In, where they learned about the legislative and regulatory priorities of the U.S. potato industry. The program finished with a day of lobbying visits with member offices on Capitol Hill, where participants joined their state grower delegations in town for the Fly-In in advocating for policies that will improve the long-term health of the industry.

    Eric Schroeder of Schroeder Bros. Farms Inc. in Antigo, Wisc., served as the group's Grower-Leader, after being elected to the position by the 2013 Leadership Institute class. At the conclusion of the event, the 2014 class elected Reid Mattive of Worley Family Farms in Monte Vista, Colo. to serve as the 2015 Grower-Leader.

    Participants in the 2014 Potato Industry Leadership Institute: (first row, left to right) Jordan Thomas, Hamer, Idaho; Derek Davenport, Pasco, Wash.; Damon Johnson, East Grand Forks, N.D.; John (JD) Schroeder, Antigo, Wisc.; (second row) Dillon VanOrden, Pingree, Idaho; Sara Corey, Monticello, Maine; Stephanie Andersen, Blanchard, Mich.; (third row) Sean Edler, Arbyrd, Mo.; Erin Cooper, Monte Vista, Colo.; James Macy, Culver, Ore.; Daniel Gundersen, Burlington, Wash.; Reid Mattive, Monte Vista, Colo.; Peggy Grover, Rexburg, Idaho; (fourth row) Ashley James, Kennewick, Wash.; Chris Hansen, Bliss, N.Y.; Heidi Alsum-Randall, Friesland, Wisc.; Brandon Rattray, Farmington, N.M.; Loren Wernette, Weidman, Mich.; (back row) Lee Andersen, Iona, Idaho; Kevin Adamson, Bakersfield, Calif.; Dan Hafner, Bryant, Wisc.; Cory Myers, Center, Colo.; Timothy Droge, Manhattan, Mont.; (not pictured) Eric Schroeder (2014 Grower Leader), Antigo, Wisc.