Local potato grower testifies with Outman at House committee meeting

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Trio stresses the need for changes at state Potato Commission

State Rep. Rick Outman and two members of the Michigan Potato Commission testified today before the House Agriculture Committee, stressing the need for legislation to allow the commission to better react to changes in the potato industry.

State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes (left), testifies before the House Agriculture Committee. With Outman are Tim Young (center), a potato producer from Howard City, and Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Commission.

State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes (left), testifies before the House Agriculture Committee. With Outman are Tim Young (center), a potato producer from Howard City, and Mike Wenkel, executive director of the Michigan Potato Commission.

Outman, R-Six Lakes, was joined by Tim Young, a Howard City potato grower and a member of the commission, and commission Executive Director Mike Wenkel. The three said House Bill 4546, along with a Senate bill, allows the commission more flexibility by permitting a mechanism by which it may adjust its budget on an annual basis to reflect the needs of the industry. The budget flexibility allows the commission to fund projects and research which help growers increase their yields and profitability, supporting Michigan jobs and economic growth.

Young, who operates a fifth-generation farm with his brother, said the changes are necessary to allow the entire potato industry to quickly react to changes in the industry.

“Since the act was enacted 40 years ago, the potato industry has become more complicated,” Young said. “As growers face more volatile marketing and growing challenges, it just makes sense to make these changes to the act.”

Outman said the current process to change the assessment to growers is cumbersome and time-consuming. The changes in his legislation will streamline the process so the commission may quickly react to lower yields or weather emergencies.

“Everybody in the industry thinks it is a good idea,” Outman said. “It allows the Potato Commission the ability to use the assessments as efficiently as possible.”

The Agriculture Committee is expected to vote on the bill during its next meeting.