Potatoes

Idaho Potato Commission

Northwest potato farmers are cheering a small provision tucked into the newly passed federal spending package.

The Women, Infants and Children or WIC program provides modest monthly vouchers for a variety of foods. They’ll cover any vegetable -- except “white potatoes.”

That single exclusion outraged the potato industry. They felt it sent the wrong message and Northwest lawmakers from both parties got on board to reverse the rule.

potatoes
thebittenword.com / Flickr Creative Commons

A set of lawsuits winding its way through federal court in Idaho combine a couple phrases you might not expect to find together: "massive international cartel" and "potato."

According to a group of grocers, the innocuous looking potato on your plate got there through a conspiracy involving price-fixing, coercion and aerial surveillance. But potato growers counter there is no cartel. Just a co-op.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Rows of potatoes stretch off toward the horizon where the South Boise Correctional Complex looms. Inmate Joe Molyneux sticks his hands into the dirt and comes up with two potatoes.

This is the fourth year that inmates have grown potatoes, corn and beans on state land near the prison. It’s Molyneux’s first year doing this and he wanted this assignment. 

“To watch these plants grow, and to watch the magic of it, you plant one little tiny seed potato and you get a big pile of them at the end of the year,” he says. “The whole point of it is to watch God’s handiwork.”

Kris Krug / Flickr Creative Commons

With about 5 percent of Idaho's potato crop harvested, experts are predicting a good-quality crop with average yields.

University of Idaho Extension Educator Lance Ellis tells the Post Register that adequate water storage helped with drought conditions in many parts of Idaho.

The 315,000 acres planted with potatoes this year in Idaho is down from the 340,000 planted in 2012.

Idaho Potato Commission President Frank Muir says the decline is the result of an overabundance of potatoes last year.

potatoes
Kris Krug / Flickr Creative Commons

Executives with a southern Idaho food processing plant are planning to invest $100 million to expand and add another production line in hopes of keeping pace with increased demand for processed potatoes.

McCain Foods is one of Burley's biggest employers, and the company's announcement Wednesday will create more jobs for the community and provide more opportunities for potato growers.

Editor's Note: Many of you noted that the price for a 10-pound bag of potatoes cited in the lawsuit seems ridiculously high. So we look into the matter further — you can read what we found in this follow-up post.

High-tech spying with satellites. Intimidation. Price fixing.

Simplot Plant Sciences

One of the country's leading suppliers of french fries is asking the federal government to approve genetically modified potatoes. The USDA announced the move Friday by the J.R. Simplot Company of Idaho. It would be the only genetically engineered potato on the market.

Simplot has branded them Innate potatoes. The company figured out how to use existing potato DNA to design a spud that’s less prone to dark spots. It also produces less acrylamide when cooked. Acrylamide is a neurotoxin found in many foods. Studies on animals have indicated it may also cause cancer.

Idaho Potato Commission

It looks like Idaho is the victor in an international trademark dispute over its most famous product. Officials in Turkey blocked a move that would have allowed a Turkish company to stamp “IDAHO” on produce, including potatoes.

For the keepers of the Idaho brand name, it's a crisis averted.

According to records on the Turkish Patent Institute's website, the agency has rejected an application to trademark the word “IDAHO”.  Idaho Gov. Butch Otter also received a letter from the Turkish ambassador saying as much.

Idaho Potato Commission

You've heard of fake designer handbags and imitation Apple stores. Well, the state of Idaho is worried about knock-off potatoes. Idaho is trying to block a trademark on the word “IDAHO” in Turkey. The state sees it as a potentially costly threat. But controlling the global brand is no easy task. 

USDA

South Korea has lifted a two month old ban on Northwest potato exports - at least the ones used for potato chips. The ban imposed on potatoes grown in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho was lifted this week.

The move comes after growers agreed to take steps to insure they don’t ship potatoes infected with zebra chip disease.

Peggy Greb / USDA

Starting today, fresh potatoes from Idaho, Oregon and Washington can no longer be exported to South Korea.

As Capital Press reported earlier this week, Korea’s export ban results from concerns over an insect-borne disease that causes light yellow potato flesh to darken and stripe — the zebra chip.

Scott Ki / Boise State Public Radio

U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim Risch (R-ID) want the federal government to be more aggressive in opening the market for U.S. potatoes in Mexico.  They joined seven other senators Thursday in urging federal trade and agriculture agencies to push Mexico on the issue.   

Jonathan D. Eisenback / Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (from USDA's website))

Three more Idaho potato fields are coping with the pale cyst nematode this year.  That brings the number up to fifteen since the pest was first found in 2006. 

The pale cyst nematode is about the size of a pinhead, but its effects can be devastating.  It attacks the roots of potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. The nematode can also reduce plant yields by as much as 80 percent.