June 04, 2013

Senators Want White Potatoes Eligible For Purchase Under WIC

A potato contains more nutritional value than other vegetables eligible for WIC

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have joined Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) to introduce an amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, more commonly known as the Farm Bill, that would reinstate fresh white potatoes as eligible for purchase under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. 

"The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to ignore the nutritional guidance that encourages an intake of five cups per week of starchy vegetables," Crapo said  "The Secretary of Agriculture should not exclude the eligibility of any variety of fresh vegetables from being provided as supplemental foods under the WIC program.  Idaho potatoes are popular, affordable and nutritional, yet this commodity continues to be unfairly targeted despite WIC managers and staff across the country expressing support."    

"Once again, we are attempting to allow fresh white potatoes to be purchased in the Women, Infants and Children food program.  Idaho potatoes offer a variety of nutritional benefits at very low cost.  The USDA's nutritional guidelines for potatoes need to be consistent and allow their purchase from any seller," said Risch.

The USDA revised the WIC program to make fresh fruits and vegetables eligible for purchase using vouchers.  Relying on a 2005 Institute of Medicine report, USDA excluded fresh white potatoes on the basis that potato consumption levels were adequate without a need to encourage additional purchases. 

However, after the rule was drafted the federal government released new nutritional guidelines for all Americans, including WIC participants, rendering the agency's initial justifications for portions of the regulation outdated.  The new guidelines suggested an intake of five cups of starchy vegetables per week.  Despite this report, USDA has refused to allow fresh white potatoes to be eligible for the program.

The USDA does allow mothers to use WIC vouchers to purchase white potatoes at farmers markets.  However, they are unable to purchase the exact same product at grocery stores.  Both Crapo and Risch agree that the USDA rules for the WIC program do not make sense.

Crapo and Risch will push for a Floor vote on the amendment.