May 13, 2008

Idaho Delegation Wins Pro-Potato Language In Farm Bill Compromise

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Members of Idaho's Congressional Delegation have convinced a House-Senate conference committee to include pro-potato language that could lead to white potatoes being restored as part of a program for low income women and children.

The conference committee agreed to include report language in the Farm Bill suggesting that white potatoes should not be unnecessarily excluded from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrition programs including the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The committee's Joint Statement of Managers voices support for "the inclusion of all fruits and vegetables in the federal nutrition programs where supported by science."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published an interim rule that excluded white potatoes from the program. The WIC program is supposed to assist low-income and nutritionally at-risk pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants and children.

Senators Larry Craig, Mike Crapo and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Bill Sali, wrote letters in support of including white potatoes in the WIC program.

"I am pleased that the Committee shared our recognition of the healthful value of the potato by encouraging USDA to correct this wrongdoing and include all fresh fruits and vegetables, such as white potatoes, in this vital nutrition program," Senator Larry Craig said.

"Good choices lead to better nutrition, and the Idaho potato is a great source of potassium, fiber, vitamin C and many B vitamins," Senator Mike Crapo said. "It is important to ensure that white potatoes are available as part of the nutritional options open for low income food programs to the benefit of women and children. The inclusion of this language will help with that effort. This is great news for Idaho's Famous Potatoes and our local potato growers."

"There was never any rational reasoning for excluding white potatoes from this important program," said Congressman Mike Simpson. "The Committee's action is an appropriate acknowledgement of the fundamental role potatoes play in a healthy, balanced diet."

"This is a significant breakthrough that will directly benefit countless low income families who would have turned to less healthy, more expensive food choices to meet their budgets and dietary needs," said Congressman Bill Sali.

Members of Idaho's delegation had argued that by excluding only white potatoes from the WIC program, the rule would create confusion on the part of participants, which may drive these individuals to other, less-healthy options. Delegation members said the exclusion of white potatoes adds an unnecessary logistical complexity for all who use the WIC program - participants, grocers and vendors.