Have Potatoes Been Subjected To Price-Fixing?
Eastern Idaho ( KIDK ) Idaho is the nation's top potato–producing state. Idaho potatoes account for 30% of the nation's supply, but a U.S wholesale grocer based in Kansas is claiming potato farmers nationwide are *illegally* price–fixing their spuds.
This lawsuit was filed against the United Potato Growers of America and more than 20 other defendants. In the 86–page lawsuit, Associated Wholesale Grocers claims potato growers are illegally manipulating the market to reduce potato output and fix prices.
Paul Patterson is an agricultural economist for the University of Idaho. He says the allegations don't add up.
Patterson says, "basically, it's supply and demand. If there's more supply than there is demand, prices are going to fall dramatically — particularly for agricultural commodities."
The lawsuit also claims the cooperatives formed by potato farmers are a conspiracy to rip off buyers, but Patterson says it's the opposite.
He says farmers don't have control over their destiny and the co–ops bring stability.
United Potato Grower's is a co–op... "(our) goal has been to help growers provide quality potatoes at reasonable prices to American consumers. We have always acted openly and within the bounds of the law. We are confident in our legal position and look for
Two pieces of legislation protect farm co–ops from being targeted, so Patterson says it will be up to how the courts interpret the law.
The defendants are more than just farmers in Idaho. They're members in 12 states and represent more than 80% of all the potato acres in the U.S. Because of the amount of material involved in this lawsuit... It most likely won't go to court for another 2 to 3 years.
The lawsuit was originally filed in Kansas, but was moved to U.S. District Court in Idaho this week.