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Idaho delegation asks for help for potato growers

Idaho’s congressional delegation is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help potato growers struggling because of the low prices and oversupply of domestic potatoes.

In a letter to the administrator of the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick asked the agency to purchase fresh surplus potatoes for federal nutrition programs under the Section 32 program, according to a news release.

“The growing conditions for the 2009 Idaho potato crop were almost perfect resulting in record yields and excellent quality,” the delegation wrote. “Therefore, the percentage of saleable potatoes is above average this year, and currently Idaho potato stocks on hand are nearly 13.5 percent more than last year’s stocks, despite Idaho shipping 4.5 percent more than 2008 volumes. This situation has caused prices to drop, and prices have continued to be low for quite some time.”

“Potato growers are struggling right now with their returns, which are quite low,” the letter said. “Without action, the combination of a high supply and low prices will drive many growers in the State of Idaho and throughout the country to go out of business. In today’s financial market, trying to get financing for next year’s crops could be quite difficult when producers present the returns for this year’s crop.”

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