Potato growers struggling


Politico reports, tons of potatoes are being given away or left to cow feed as surplus crops continue to pile up despite the government’s best efforts to distribute food boxes to families in need. The potato sector feels like USDA’s new Farmers to Families Food Box program, and other initiatives, are not enough to dent the losses in a sector that depends heavily on food service.

The $3 billion food box program, widely touted by the department and the White House, has private distributors buying up excess farm goods and delivering them to food banks and other nonprofits for the growing number of Americans in need of food assistance.

“It was clear the people who were doing well in retail could probably take more advantage of this than the impaired side of the business, which is food service,” said Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council. “It would be awesome if potatoes are in all the boxes, but are they the potatoes that are creating the oversupply [and] pushing growers to the brink of bankruptcy? By and large, the answer is going to be no.”

Angela Reed, owner of Grasmick Produce near Boise, hopes to distribute over 700,000 pounds of potatoes to nonprofits in Idaho and Montana by the end of June. But the benefit of the food box program to growers is unclear, according to the Idaho Potato Commission, especially when farmers are giving away and discarding millions of pounds of product.