Spud Snub? Potato Growers Steamed Over Exclusion From WIC Nutrition Program

Feb 28, 2014

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

Low-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, as it states on page 93 of the finalized rule, any variety of vegetable “except white potatoes.”

“I just, I just … I'm at a loss, I really am,” said Chris Voigt, who heads the Washington Potato Commission.

Voigt, 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.

“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?” he said.

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.