More than 2,300 attendees, 216 exhibitors convened at the potato industry’s largest North America trade show
WASHINGTON – On Jan. 10-11, 2,320 U.S. potato growers and industry members from 18 countries turned out for Potato Expo 2024 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas, to do business and prepare their operations for the future. Celebrating its 16th year, Potato Expo 2024 broke all previous attendance records previously set at its Las Vegas show held in 2020.
Potato Expo 2024 Steering Committee members cut the ribbon to open Potato Expo 2024 at the entrance of the Expo Hall. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
The annual event is hosted by the National Potato Council (NPC). According to current NPC President RJ Andrus of Idaho Falls, Idaho, “Kicking off every year, Potato Expo features industry experts and addresses issues top-of-mind for industry partners. This year’s event doubled the number of educational and business-oriented sessions, which were held on three stages – the Expo Stage, the Cultivation Stage, and the Pavilion Stage in the all-new NPC Pavilion, which focused on the industry’s public policy and advocacy efforts. We couldn’t be happier with the turnout and the positive responses we received about the exhibitors, programming, and receptions. Thank you all for making Potato Expo 2024 the most successful event in its history!”
Potato Expo serves as a forum to foster collaboration between national and state potato associations, as well as the rest of the industry. Maintaining its reputation as a place to help better position the industry for the future, Potato Expo 2024 addressed many current topics from disruptive weather patterns and the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the potato industry to public policies affecting the growers.
NPC CEO Kam Quarles gave kudos to the NPC team for their outstanding efforts in creating a compelling and creative program for our exhibitors, growers, and industry partners who look forward to attending the Expo every year. “We have an outstanding NPC team, led by Hollee Alexander, who spends nearly a year preparing for every Expo,” said Quarles. “Technological advances and the use of AI throughout the industry were extremely popular topics. The standing-room-only crowd at most of the presentations on each of the three stages tell us we are hitting the priorities that the industry cares about.”
Highlights of the two-day Potato Expo included a conversation with Doug McKalip, U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the Office of the United States Trade Representative, who joined Quarles on the Expo Stage to discuss ongoing efforts to open and grow markets for the U.S. potato industry. McKalip’s message to markets still resisting its export, including Japan, which has delayed negotiations to open its market to U.S. fresh potatoes: “Trust the science.”
NPC CEO Kam Quarles (right) takes the stage with U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the USTR, Doug McKalip, to talk about the importance of trade to the potato industry. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
McKalip told Potato Expo attendees that it’s going to take the same shoulder-to-shoulder grindstone approach that the office took with Mexico. “We need to stick with it, keep building relationships.” Quarles added that he expects similar successful results once full access to the Japanese market is achieved. “Japan will become another massive market for U.S. fresh potato exports,” estimating it to be another $150-$200 million annually.
USTR’s Doug McKalip (center) tours the trade show floor with NPC Executive Committee Members Jared Balcom (left) and RJ Andrus (right). Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
Standing room only for an Expo Stage session featuring Frito Lay’s Laura Maxwell and Ashin Parikh on how the company works with farmers. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
Kicking off the first day’s stage presentations was Street & Potatoes: A Battle of the Best Tacos, a competition that saw three teams vying for the annual title of “Top Spud.” Showcasing their winning recipe was the team of Mike Carter from Bushman’s Inc. in Rosholt, Wisc., and Steve Streich of Streich and Associates in Kalispell, Mont.
Chef Jason Morse, National Spokesperson for Ace Hardware, (left) interviews contestants Steve Streich (center) and Mike Carter (right) as they prepare their winning recipe. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
The host of NPC’s “Eye on Potatoes Podcast,” Lane Nodlund, recorded a live podcast on the Pavilion Stage, titled, “Enhancing Growers’ Competitiveness – A Discussion With National Organizations Leaders,” featuring the CEOs of the National Potato Growers of American, Potatoes USA, and the National Potato Council. To kick off the session, Syngenta announced it has renewed its sponsorship for the podcast through 2024.
(From left to right) Eye on Potatoes podcast host Lane Nurdlund leads the conversation with Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council; Mark Klompien, President and CEO of United Potato Growers of America; and Blair Richardson, President and CEO of Potatoes USA. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
Local news media added to the excitement, with two live news segments airing on FOX 7 Austin, including an interview with NPC’s Kam Quarles and a cooking demonstration by Potatoes USA representatives Chef RJ Harvey and Executive Sous Chef Aurora Hollenbeck. Watch those segments here and here.
The event also highlighted the importance of the Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF), a 501(c)3 organization that provides tools, training, and support necessary to help growers and industry members develop as leaders. The organization announced a new annual program, “Leadership in the Field: From Battlefield to Potato Field,” which will kick off July 15-18, 2024 at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The program will educate visitors about elements of the battle, including how ordinary people were asked to do extraordinary things that impacted the war.
“Potato LEAF is excited to launch Leadership in the Field as a new and unique opportunity to utilize the resources of America’s most revered battlefield to help develop the skills of our industry’s leaders,” Gregg Halverson, Potato LEAF board chair.
Applications are being accepted through March 1 and are open to anyone in the U.S. potato industry. Participants will be selected with preference given to individuals who have participated in leadership programs and are currently serving or have served in industry leadership roles. For more information visit pleaf.org.
During the Potato Expo Kick-off Reception, live and silent auctions were held to benefit the Potato LEAF organization, raising a record $108,000, a sharp increase from the nearly $67,000 raised in 2023.
Washington potato grower and former NPC President Randy Mullen served as the auctioneer for the Potato LEAF live auction, held on the Expo Stage. Photo credit: Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography
Potato Expo 2025 will be held January 14-15 in Las Vegas, Nevada. More information is available at potato-expo.com.
Images of Potato Expo 2024 are available for media use here. Please credit Potato Expo and Bill Schaefer Photography.