State potato commission ends marketing order

For the Basin Business Journal | August 8, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — It’s the end of an era.

Marketing Order 946, which in 1949 established federal standards for the minimum grade, size and maturity of Washington-grown potatoes before they were sent to market, has been repealed.

“It was a great tool,” said Matt Harris, director of government affairs for the Washington State Potato Commission.

Harris said the marketing order served its purpose, but over the course of time, many retailers of potatoes and potato products developed higher standards than those required by the marketing order.

The costs of inspecting potatoes under the marketing order, done by the Washington State Department of Agriculture on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has also increased, Harris said. Those costs became a burden to growers and buyers.

“The underlying vision, the marketing order no longer set minimum grade standards. That was defined by retail, and the cost of inspecting every fresh potato for size and quality was too high,” Harris said.

Because of that, the Potato Commission started phasing out the marketing order in the past few years, finally voting to terminate it beginning June 30, 2021.

“Growers and handlers who manage the activities of the committee debated this and found termination was the best path for fresh potato growers in Washington state,” Harris said. “The great tool established over 70 years ago was no longer needed.”

According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, marketing orders are voluntary, but binding, initiated and adopted by farmers and processors to create a stable market for commodity and specialty crops — including milk — by setting standards and a stable supply of the crop throughout the year.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at