COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Dozens of members of Congress are protesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to keep white potatoes — basically all non-sweet potatoes — out of the Women, Infants and Children program.
The USDA’s decision flies in the face of what the legislators called a congressional directive to add the potatoes to WIC vouchers, according to a letter signed by 67 members of Congress, and sent to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“There is a continuing effort to reinsert that into the omnibus bill, and our staff is working to get support in the Senate and House,” said Randy Hardy, National Potato Council president, who spoke on the issue March 14 at the U.S. Potato Board’s annual meeting.
The legislators said the USDA should include all fresh vegetables, including white potatoes, in the program. Hardy, owner of Hardy Farms, Oakley, Idaho, said WIC has 9.2 million participants.
“It’s a big piece of the pie, and it’s not right that it’s excluded,” he said.
Hardy echoed the complaint raised by the legislators in the letter, that the policy was based on an Institute of Medicine Report from 2005 that used some consumption figures from the 1990s. Since then, Hardy said, newer statistics have come to light, and the potato council will continue to lobby for the spud’s inclusion.
“It will always be an open issue if we continue to push it,” Hardy said. “There will be another fight another day, and we’re not going to give up on it.”