Published online: Jul 12, 2012 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting
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Ninety-three members of Congress are pushing to get fresh potatoes included in the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., on June 27 sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the USDA to reconsider the WIC program ban on the purchase of fresh white potatoes.

The letter, which was signed by 93 members of Congress, including 13 from the Northwest, is part of a broader effort to include spuds for WIC participants.

"Ensuring that fresh white potatoes qualify for WIC will help your agency develop and implement a federal nutrition program that truly promotes the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables by adults and children alike," the congressmen wrote.

"We request that ... you seriously reconsider the ban on the purchase of fresh white potatoes," they wrote.

Earlier, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, introduced an amendment to the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill preventing the USDA from excluding white potatoes for one year.

The House Appropriations Committee on June 26 approved the amendment.

The WIC program was expanded to include fresh fruits and vegetables -- excluding potatoes -- in October 2009.

The USDA proposed extending the ban in its most recent proposed rule. The agency reasons WIC participants already get enough potatoes in their diet.

In the letter, Walden and Meeks cited studies supporting the value of white potatoes in providing key nutrients for women and children.

"WIC participants and U.S. taxpayers deserve federal nutrition policy that is science based and has the potential to improve the health of participants," the congressmen wrote.

Marty Myers, chairman of the Oregon Potato Commission, said he was encouraged by the developments.

"We are encouraged that 93 members of the House are helping us urge USDA to follow the latest dietary science and add fresh white potatoes to this important nutritional program," Myers said.