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Senators: Potatoes Should Be in Federal Program

Write Agriculture Secretary Over Including Fresh White Potatoes in WIC Program

June 7, 2010

Washington, DC - A popular federal nutrition program does not offer white potatoes to women, infants and children, and Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo want that changed. The Idahoans are part of a bipartisan group of 19 Senators who have written U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to include potatoes with other fruits and vegetables offered as part of the federal government's 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) nutrition program.

Risch, Crapo and the other Senators signing the letter noted that more than 200 public comments have been received favoring the inclusion of fresh white potatoes in the WIC program.

"Fresh white potatoes have good nutritional value. There is simply no science-based reason to exclude these potatoes from our federal food programs like WIC. Their use not only helps those who need food products but supports Idaho family farmers, too. I urge the Secretary to fix this omission and include fresh white potatoes on the list of eligible vegetables," said Risch.

"WIC program managers and staff across the country have expressed support for adding fresh white potatoes to the program, recognizing fresh potatoes as an economical source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber," said Crapo. "It is essential that the Obama Administration reconsider the exclusion of fresh white potatoes from WIC, as fresh white potatoes provide important nutrients found to be needed in young children's diets."

USDA is in the process of making WIC program rule changes enabling WIC assistance to be utilized for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, despite their nutritional value, fresh white potatoes have been the only vegetable excluded from the list of program eligible fruits and vegetables through this process. The 2008 Farm Bill Joint Statement of Managers included language supporting the inclusion of all fresh fruits and vegetables in federal nutrition programs where supported by science. WIC program managers and staff, state government organizations, concerned citizens, farmers market coordinators, produce companies, trade associations and potato growers have been among those pressing for adding Idaho's famous commodity to the federal program.