Have Farmers Been Inflating Spud Prices?

WIkimedia/Tom W. Sulcer

It appears as if a battle between grocers and potato growers has begun in Idaho. Associated Wholesale Grocers are suing the United Potato Growers of America for a supposed 10 yearlong plan of inflating potato prices, according to AP. While the potato has found its home as the country’s most popular vegetable, 30 percent of the national potato supply comes from Idaho potato farms.

In the lawsuit, the AWG co-op compared this scheme to the “petroleum-producing OPEC cartel, reducing planting acreages and destroying potatoes to restrict what is available for sale,” discovering through spying methods like GPS systems, fly-overs, and satellite imagery.

It’s uncertain how much this price-fixing has actually bumped up the cost of freshly bagged potatoes and frozen potato products like crinkle-cut fries, but Idaho farmers might still be in hot water. These farmers supposedly tried to make a profit by supplying high-priced potatoes regardless of weather, water and fuel costs.

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Nonetheless, this case is definitely not small potatoes. The UPGA’s lawyer believes their moves are protected under the 1922 Capper-Volstead Act, intended to provide limited exemption for agricultural producers against anti-trust rules. The AWG’s complaint says secret meetings in Idaho Falls with huge potato growers hatched this price-inflating plan. However, the real problem lies in the fact that potato farmers have since ceased growing a surplus of spuds, which caused the prices to decrease, so less spuds means higher costs.