Monday, February 1, 2010

Just in from Washington

Help to Idaho farmers and the nation’s children
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson praised news Friday that the USDA will help Idaho potato farmers weather a year of good crops and bad prices, while feeding children at the same time.

After hearing from Idaho’s Congressmen, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak directed the USDA to purchase $29.1 million worth of blueberry, pear, potato, peach and mixed fruit products through the Section 32 program. As well as helping farmers, the program offers healthy foods to nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program, programs that provide food to children in need.

Part of the purchase, announced Friday by Vilsak, includes $9 million worth of potatoes. Minnick and Simpson helped Idaho’s potato farmers make their case for the purchase.
“I am always pleased to see a federal program working the way it was intended,” Minnick said. “This purchase helps Idaho by giving rural economies a boost in during tough economic times, while helping to feed the nation’s poor. I want to thank Secretary Vilsak for his sensible decision to put federal dollars to use in an effective manner.”

“I am pleased the USDA is stepping forward to assist Idaho’s potato growers and thank Secretary Vilsak for responding to our request,” Simpson said. “The Section 32 program is intended to assist producers in situations exactly like this by utilizing funds set aside from customs receipts. The program not only assists producers, it provides nutritious foods to those in need and helps ensure we never become as reliant on foreign countries for our food as we have for our energy.”

Minnick and Simpson spearheaded a letter from the Idaho Delegation seeking the purchase. Minnick’s office also met with Agriculture officials in Washington, D.C., to press the issue.Idaho potato farmers needed the help. With last year’s near-perfect growing conditions, potato farmers enjoyed excellent yields. The stocks of saleable potatoes rose by 13.5 percent, even as exports rose by 4.5 percent. As a result, prices dropped and have stayed low

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