It's Late But Money May Help

Published online: Apr 11, 2001
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It may be "small potatoes," but a $10.3 million diversion program was announced today by the USDA.

Payments for diverting 2000 crop russet potatoes are targeted at $1 per cwt for those signing up over the next 30 days. Potatoes must meet specific minimum U.S. grade standards and be inspected and certified by federal or federal/state inspectors.

Don Dixon, retired Idaho Falls, ID, potato grower, now a field assistant for Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) made the announcement in Blackfoot, ID, Wednesday afternoon. Dixon said there might be some growers who can take advantage of the program in lieu of other options for emptying their storage units.

Full requirements for the proposed rule should be found at http://www.ams.usda.gov/fv/fvcomm.htm. Further information is available from the Commodity Procurement Branch, AMS Fruit and Vegetable Programs, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC, 20250-0239. Phone is (202) 720-4517, fax, (202) 720-2782. Additional information may be obtained by e-mailing michelle.warren@usda.gov.

Dixon could not announce exact details of the plan, which were still being worked out in D.C. However, he said the diversion would be administered by the Agriculture Marketing Service and implemented by the Farm Service Agency.

The last such program was set up in 1997 for the 1996 crop. Other programs were run in the late `60s. This year's crop is the largest ever, credited mostly to perfect growing conditions in all production regions.

The Idaho-initiated self-help Potato Management Company has diverted 4.4 million cwt with 90,000 cwt of that going to charitable causes. About 200-220 growers have participated.

In the same time period, the government has purchased the raw equivalent of 272.6 million pounds of all varieties and forms of potato products. The value of these purchases has topped $35.5 million. These purchases have gone to school lunch programs, foreign aid, and other government-directed uses.