Spud Snub? Potato Growers Steamed Over Exclusion From Nutrition Program

By Jessica Robinson

Northwest potato growers say they've been snubbed in a federal nutrition program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday finalized changes to WIC, the Women, Infants and Children program . And it will cover all fruits and veggies … all but potatoes.

Potatoes. Credit: USDALow-income women who are pregnant or who have young children can get a modest monthly voucher to buy certain foods. The list includes milk, cheese, whole grain bread, fruits. And there on page 93 of the finalized rule, it says any variety of vegetable … “except white potatoes.”

Chris Voigt: “I just, I just … I'm at a loss, I really am.”

Chris Voigt heads the Washington Potato Commission. He, along with growers in Idaho, Oregon and other potato states fought hard against the exclusion. Voigt says the money isn't the issue – it's the message the government is sending about the potato's nutritional value.

Chris Voigt: “How's it going to sound to a mother when the counselor hands her these extra dollars to go out and purchase any fruit or vegetable you want – except the potato.”

Officials at the Department of Agriculture say Americans already eat plenty of potatoes and don’t need federal aid to eat any more.

Potato growers may ask Congress to revisit the WIC exclusion in the future.

Photo: Potatoes. Credit: USDA

USDA’s final revisions to WIC food assistance program: http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/wic/WIC-final-rule.pdf

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