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MDARD Director Appoints Members to Michigan Seed Potato Advisory Committee

By Jennifer Holton

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Dr. Tim Boring appointed two new members and reappointed three members to the Michigan See Potato Advisory Committee under Public Act 94 of 2018, the Seed Potato Act. The five-member committee was created to advise the director in establishing rules, recommending whether to grant permission to plant uncertified seed potatoes, and to consult with the director on the administration and enforcement of the act.

According to the Seed Potato Act (PA 94) Sec. 6(2), the advisory committee shall be appointed by the director as follows: (a) Two commercial potato growers who do not grow seed potatoes, (b) current chair of the Michigan Seed Potato Association (MSPA), (c) one person employed by Michigan State University, and (d) one person employed by the department.

Each of the appointees would serve a three-year term which begins on April 1, 2024 and ends on March 31, 2027.

Tim Kunze is reappointed to represent commercial growers. Kunze oversees the central services team supporting all operations at Black Gold Farms located in Sturgis. Kunze has farmed for 12 years including potatoes and sweet potatoes. Black Gold Farms grows in nine states with potatoes grown in eight of them. 

Jeff Thorlund is reappointed to represent commercial growers. Thorlund is a grower and owner/operator of Thorland Brothers located in Greenville. Thorlund has farmed for 32 years and manages 4,000 acres of potatoes, dry edible beans, corn, and wheat. He is also a chipping potato producer, corn producer for ethanol, and wheat grower for milling flour. He sits on the Potato Growers of Michigan Board and the Simplot Grower Advisor Council.

Dr. Jaime Willbur of Bath is reappointed to represent Michigan State University (MSU). Willbur is an Assistant Professor in the Potato and Sugar Beet Pathology Extension and Research Program located within MSU's Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, since 2018. Dr. Willbur holds a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Wisconsin, and a B.S. in Chemical Biology from Lawrence Technological University.  She is a member of the Potato Association of America, American Society of Sugar Beet Pathologists, and the American Phytopathological Society.

The two new members of the Seed Potato Advisory Committee are:

Elizabeth Dorman of Laingsburg is appointed to represent MDARD. Dorman is the department's Plant Pathology Laboratory Manager within the Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. Doman replaces Robin Rosenbaum who retired from MDARD. Dorman obtained her B.S. in Environmental Biology/Botany and her M.S. in Plant Pathology from Michigan State University. She has been employed with MDARD in a variety of roles since 2003 and is a member of the National Plant Diagnostic Network and National Clean Plant Network.

Bryan Fischer of Kalkaska is appointed to represent Michigan Seed Potato Association (MSPA). Fischer is the association's chair and president as well as a seed potato grower for Iott Seed Farm. Fischer replaces prior chair Gary Walther whose term expired. Fischer has lived in Kalkaska since 2012, operating 1800 acres of farmland and growing wheat, rye, oats, and radish, including 600 acres of seed potatoes.

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