May 22, 2014

Crapo, Risch Laud Committeeâ??s Inclusion of Potato Nutrition Language

Amendment to reinstate fresh white potatoes as eligible for purchase under WIC

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch commended the U.S. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee today for adopting an amendment to end the unnecessary exclusion of the nutrient-packed fresh white potato in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.  The WIC program makes qualifying foods available for low-income and nutritionally at-risk pregnant women and their infants and children through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

Under current law, the USDA allows mothers to use WIC vouchers to purchase fresh white potatoes through the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  However, they are unable to purchase the exact same product at grocery stores.  With only 110 calories, a potato contains more potassium than an equivalent sized banana and more vitamin C than one tomato, both of which are eligible for purchase under WIC.  

"Despite its affordability and immense nutritional benefits, the fresh white potato remains the only vegetable unfairly excluded from the list of products available for purchase under the program," Crapo said.  "USDA currently utilizes an outdated 2005 nutrition report that draws from food intake data from 1994-1995 to classify eligible foods for purchase under WIC.  The agency's refusal to recognize the most recent 2010 government-backed dietary guidelines when determining eligibility for inclusion in the program is misguided.  Congress must rectify this wrong and reverse this impractical rule."

"I am happy to see that common-sense has prevailed in  the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee," said Risch. "White potatoes meet a variety of nutritional standards at a fraction of the cost of other vegetables or fruits. The USDA's nutritional guidelines for potatoes should be consistent and allow their purchase from any seller."

Earlier this month, Crapo and Risch, joined by a bipartisan coalition of eighteen senators, wrote U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to express concern over USDA's ill-advised justification to exclude the healthy fresh white potato from the program based upon inconsistent scientific standards.  Read the letter here.                                                                                                                                                                            

The amendment was offered by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, during a markup of Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills and reported favorably out of the committee by a bipartisan voice vote.  The bill now moves out of committee and will be scheduled for a vote by the full Senate at a later time.