The Northern Plains Potato Growers Association (NPPGA) was first organized in 1946 by a handful of concerned potato growers who felt that the Valley's potato industry needed to be more united. This group actually donated their own funds for the first year to kick things off. It didn't take long before the Association was officially formed and boasted 600 grower-members from both sides of the Red River.
The priorities set by the first Board of Directors - research and promotion - has never changed. However, the means of accomplishing these priorities have varied over the years. Much of the first 15 years was devoted to organizing, developing funding mechanisms, and dealing with legislative work, marketing control, traffic and regulation study, potato research and promotion, and public relations.
In 1956, the Association purchased land five miles south of Grand Forks, ND, to establish the nation's first and only grower-owned potato research farm. Since then, the Red River Valley Potato Research Farm, as well as other research areas, have provided ample space for potato research on soil types representative of the Red River Valley. The land is made available to researchers from the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, and USDA for various types of research and experiments with variety development, disease control, insect control, processing quality, and storage concerns.
The 1960's signified opportunities for growth and success to Red River Valley Potato Growers. By 1960, the Association had 2,500 members, the highest number of members ever. The Association concentrated heavily on promotion and sent out marketing representatives to many areas in the United States calling on merchandising managers, brokers, chain store buyers, chip manufactures, and other receivers of fresh potatoes. Yet, the 1960's also brought great change to the Valley. An increased consumer demand for processed potatoes opened new windows of opportunity for many Valley potato growers.
During the 1970's, the Valley's chip industry became very strong and Valley growers experienced expanding potato acreage and increased yields of chipping potatoes. Association officials spent much time negotiating contracts with processors.
Throughout the 1980's and 1990's the industry has seen dramatic changes because of the nation's economics and politics. Farms have become fewer and acreage has become larger. The most exciting changes have been the technological advances that have built our industry to its current standing.
In 2002 the Association realized the need for an irrigated research site to compliment the non-irrigated site near Grand Forks. A site was purchased and operated near Tappen, ND from 2002 to 2008. In 2009 the irrigated research site was moved to the Forest River Colony near Inkster, ND.
Potatoes grown in the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota are the highest quality found anywhere. It is with pride and dedication, that the potato growers in this area combine a superior work ethic with modern, state-of-the art equipment and facilities to supply excellent quality potatoes.
The Red River Valley has several unique growing conditions found nowhere else in the world. The results of a mammoth glacial lake, the Red River Valley has been blessed with the rich, black soil. The land is flat and virtually free of stones, with few hills and slopes which make it ideal for consistently producing one of the finest potato crops anywhere.
Today after significant advances in production and technology, the Red River Valley can boast being the nation's third largest potato-producing area in the nation. The Red River Valley is also the only region that produces in volume for four of the major potato markets; chip, fresh, seed, and process.
The Association has seen its potato acreage expand to new areas of North Dakota and Minnesota with the prevalence of irrigation. The 1990's have brought new interest in integrated pest management with a consumer demand to move away from pesticide use. But, the newest and most exciting change is that of biotechnology. Biotechnology has become commonplace and has brought the first genetically altered potato into the market. As we embark upon the 21st century, technological advances will continue to pave the way into and throughout the next century.
The NPPGA today has approximately 250 grower members. The NPPGA works for its potato growers in the areas of research, promotion and marketing, communication, and legislation.
A group of 10 potato growers who represent all of the Association's growing areas make up the Board of Directors. In addition, six individuals are elected to serve on the Executive Committee, three from the Board, one from the Minnesota Potato Council, one from the North Dakota Potato Council, and one from the Potato Associates. These individuals work directly with a President who manages a staff of various professionals to carry out the Association's Mission. The Association also has several committees to deal with the many different areas of the potato production.