Honoring Leaders in Environmental Stewardship
From left to right: NPC President Jim Tiede, Laurie Foster and Boyd Foster.
Each year, NPC honors a family farm that has demonstrated a commitment to stewardship of its land and protection of our shared environment. The award winner is a leader in adopting innovations that reduce the risks associated with pesticide application, support wildlife habitat and promote improved water quality and water conservation. Their leadership by example encourages other producers to focus their attention on these important environmental values.
Boyd Foster of Vista Valley Ag in Ririe, Idaho, was named the recipient of the prestigious 2016 Environmental Stewardship Award during the National Potato Council’s (NPC) 2017 Annual Meeting.
Foster plants a rotation of potatoes, barley, wheat and alfalfa to reduce pest pressure. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is utilized throughout the farming operation with each field or distinct cropping area being treated according to its specific need. Foster has a direct role in implementing the strategies to endure the long term sustainability of the farm. In order to conserve soil and foster native habitats for animals and insects, he plants a mix of natural grasses on pivot corners. This reduces erosion and provides habitat for native species of birds and animals. Occasionally after nesting season, they mow to reduce the fire risk and allow for new growth. The farm is also a past state winner of the Environmental Respect Award sponsored by DuPont.
A video highlighting the effort made by Foster and his family to preserve and improve the environmental sustainability of their farm is available for use in schools and civic organizations. Watch the video below.
Developing Sustainability Standards:
NPC is involved in a number of different efforts to develop a workable definition of sustainability. NPC is actively participating in the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops (SISC), the National Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (NISA), and the Field to Market project. Potatoes are the first specialty crop to be evaluated using the Field to Market tools. NPC is encouraging these groups to develop a common set of metrics that are grower-friendly, use largely available data, measure results over time, and do not set bright-line standards.
WORKING TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT:
America’s potato growers are proud to produce this staple crop in a sustainable and innovative manner. The National Potato Council
applauds farmers for their commitment to environmental stewardship and for their efforts in reducing pesticide use without reducing yield or quality.
Since 1988, NPC has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the environment and to promote the safe and effective use of pesticides. NPC partners with EPA through the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP), which focuses on reducing the risk from pesticide use in the production of potatoes. This program includes initiatives such as the Environmental Stewardship Award, the Integrated Pest Management Survey, and the Policy Makers and Regulators Potato Field Education Tour.
Integrated Pest Management Survey:
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Survey is completed by growers across the U.S. and evaluates implementation of environmentally responsible practices over time. The survey is an important tool in showing the EPA the potato industry's advancements in environmental stewardship. Growers are able to measure their individual performance over time and compare their adoption of IPM techniques to other potato growers.
The survey is designed to encourage evaluations that lead to innovation and accelerated adoption of decision making criteria that improve the environment, safeguard workers and simultaneously reduce unnecessary costs while maintaining high levels of production efficiency.
Helping EPA Better Understand Production Practices:
NPC is proud of its growers' commitment to the highest environmental standards in agriculture. To showcase the industry’s commitment to protecting the nation’s environment, NPC works with one potato-growing state each year to coordinate the Policy Makers and Regulators Field Education Tour for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives.
By visiting potato fields, storages, and packing facilities, EPA staff gain a better understanding of how their policy decisions impact potato production. Each year this tour proves to be highly beneficial in advancing NPC priorities in Washington, DC.
In 2014, NPC led a delegation of 19 EPA staff on a crop tour of New Jersey’s potato growing region. The tour kicked off at Jim Coombs Farms in Elmer, N.J., where the staff were given an area overview by potato grower and member of NPC’s Board of Directors Jennifer Coombs-Kelly. Agency personnel watched a live demonstration of a potato digger and ground and aerial pesticide application practices. The stop concluded with the staff rolling up their sleeves and using shovels to dig their own potatoes.
The staff also stopped in Bridgeton, N.J., where they visited Seabrook Brothers and Sons, Inc. packing facility. Tour participants saw fresh vegetables being processed and frozen and heard about challenges that must be addressed at the production level such as weed control. Staff later visited a Rutgers University Research Farm where they learned about specific pest and disease challenges faced by fruit and vegetable growers.
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher capped off the night by addressing the staff over the course of dinner, offering his praise of the overall thriving New Jersey agriculture industry. The tour traveled to Nottingham, Pa. the following day where Herr’s snack food plant owner, Gene Herr, led a tour of the potato chip processing facility.