UPDATED: AWG files antitrust case against potato groups

04/23/2013 05:03:00 PM
Coral Beach

For additional coverage, please see "Potato growers, groups maintain innocence in antitrust cases"

Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 24, 4:10 p.m.) In a recently-filed lawsuit, Associated Wholesale Grocers claims that the United Potato Growers of America, United Potato state groups and many potato grower-shippers are illegally setting potato prices.

AWG specifically mentions Albert Wada of Wada Farms, who traveled extensively in the mid-2000s to convince potato growers in other states to follow Idaho growers’ leads in establishing United Potato groups. A number of other founding members of the groups are also named in the complaint.

Despite forming under the Capper-Volstead Act, which allows growers to meet and set goals to stabilize markets without fear of antitrust laws, the United Potato groups are operating outside the Act because growers have affiliations to marketing/processing/and other non-grower entities, according to the lawsuit, filed April 17 in Kansas City, Kan.

The Kansas City, Kan.-based wholesaler filed suit against Wada, his Idaho companies, the Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America and 20 other potato companies, organizations and individuals. The case is in U.S. District Court in Kansas.

United Potato Growers of AmericaOfficers from United Potato Growers of America maintain that the group was set up within the law and operates legally.

“United Potato Grower’s goal has been to help growers provide quality potatoes at reasonable prices to American consumers," said Jerry Wright, president and chief executive officer of UPGA 

"We have always acted openly and within the bounds of the law. We are confident in our legal position and look forward to a favorable outcome in court.” 

A statement issued by Wada Farms on April 24 said the company operates within the law.

“Since 1943 our goal has always been to put quality potatoes on the American table with integrity and respect," the Wada statemt said. "We have consistently worked within the boundaries of the law to keep farming healthy and Americans happy for 70 years. That’s a real success story, and one we always look forward to telling.”

AWG requested a jury trial in the case and is seeking a permanent injunction to stop the defendants from meeting through the United Potato groups.

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Dave Corbett    
Kansas City  |  April, 24, 2013 at 11:17 AM

AWG management should focus on their consumers and their merchandising strategies rather than trying to bully independent potato farmers.

April, 24, 2013 at 05:58 PM

What a sham! AWG is trying to squeeze the growers who take all the risk in a frivolous lawsuit. Shame on you AWG! Your margin is already much greater than the growers and passed on to the consumer! NO FARMS,NO FOOD!

April, 25, 2013 at 09:12 AM

AWG. Why don't you go get a farm and grow them yourself

April, 25, 2013 at 10:06 AM

AWG is headed in the wrong direction. Their priorities are way out of control.

George Spada    
Portland, OR  |  April, 25, 2013 at 04:18 PM

Why doesn't AWG bare THEIR books to see what percentage of profit they are making as opposed to the potato growers who run the high risk of loss by diseases as well as the vagaries of the market itself? AWG is only talking about one area, not the entire USA production. If Wada and his fellow growers cut acreage to impact the market by 300%, WA and OR alone could pick up the slack with additional acreage and production. There is no OPEC situation here. Give it a rest and send your lawyers someplace else. If potato growers don't make decent money, their children won't become farmers. THEN what would happen to your precious pricing model? AWG, you should stick to marketing and delivering, not production. If you want to lower your costs on anything, go rail against Obamacare!

Burlington, IA  |  April, 25, 2013 at 07:01 PM

Thank you AWG for standing up and making these folks play by the correct set of rules! If you want to grow and sell, then do it correctly.

bama  |  October, 01, 2013 at 01:02 PM

What Obamacare has to do with this,he is the Prez wether u like it or not he helps ppl of all races unlike u necks who only care about ur self.Get a life and grow up.Times have changed.We as a ppl must learn to live together

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