PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The United States Potato Board recently elected Maine chip stock grower Tom Qualey of Sherman as its chairman, an honor last bestowed upon a Mainer more than two decades ago.

“To have someone from Maine in a position to chair a national potato organization is tremendous,” said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “We’re number six or seven in potato production, so to see Tom rise to the top, with the overwhelming support of top potato-producing states, speaks volumes about both his character and his contributions to the industry.”

As chairman, Qualey will work closely with USPB President and CEO Tim O’Connor to advance the organization’s mission, which is to increase demand for potatoes and potato products through an integrated promotion program, thereby providing U.S. producers with expanding markets for their production.

Qualey is serving his sixth year on the U.S. Potato Board.

Since 1977, he and his older brother John have owned and operated Three Oak Farms, a 1,200-acre commercial farming operation, which produces potatoes, canola, mustard, corn, oats and barley. For the past five years, Qualey has experimented with growing and marketing gourmet potato varieties.

There are about 380 potato growers in Maine from Aroostook County to the western mountain region around Bethel and Fryeburg. The total impact of the potato industry on the state’s economy is $540 million in sales, 6,100 jobs, more than $230 million in personal income, and more than $32 million in state and local taxes.