Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 202 of 2013 on December 17 modernizing the 1970 law that authorizes the Michigan Potato Industry Commission. "The industry has changed to fewer and larger growers facing a host of rapidly developing challenges," says Mike Wenkel, the commission's executive director. "The commission needs more flexibility to respond to critical issues."
Commission members will now be appointed to represent industry sectors rather than geographic districts. In addition, the commission's authority to accept "gifts and grants," as extra income has been expanded to include specifics such as royalties, license fees and interest.
The major modification, Wenkel says, addresses the original act's rigid assessment structure, which has resulted in revenue fluctuations from varying annual crop sizes. Now the commission is authorized, subject to grower approval in a referendum, to set an assessment rate each year based on immediate industry needs. The amount could be either lower than the current 3½-cent-per-cwt rate or higher up to a maximum of 5½ cents per cwt. A negative referendum vote would retain the 3½-cent level to July 1, 2017.
"The commission is obligated to keep adequate reserves but also must be able to fund specially needed research and other projects as needs arise," Wenkel says.