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Congresswoman Pingree leads bipartisan opposition to USDA reclassification of potatoes

Amid concerning reports that potatoes could be reclassified as grains in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and Congressman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) are leading a bipartisan effort to express opposition to efforts to declassify potatoes as vegetables. In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Pingree, Simpson, and 27 Members of Congress voiced their strong opposition to any reclassification of potatoes, which they say would "call the scientific credibility of the entire process into question."

"Since the inception of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it has classified potatoes correctly as a vegetable. There is no debate about the physical characteristics of the potato and its horticultural scientific classification," the Members wrote.

"Given the nutritional value of potatoes, consumers would be missing out on key nutrients if a reclassification effort, or even a suggestion that grains and potatoes are similar and thus interchangeable, moves forward through the DGAs process," the lawmakers continued. "In addition, any change to potatoes' current classification under the DGAs would immediately confuse consumers, retailers, restaurant operators, growers and indeed the entire supply chain."

Pingree, Simpson, and the Members called attention to a 2013 National Library of Medicine study, which found that "potatoes should be included in the vegetable group because they contribute critical nutrients," and "All white vegetables, including white potatoes, provide nutrients needed in the diet and deserve a prominent position in food guides."

"Reclassifying potatoes as a grain would defy the scientific assertion made by the National Library of Medicine study," the Members said.

The full letter is copied below and available online here.

Pingree is a longtime organic farmer and serves on both the House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. She has been a strong advocate for supporting access to fresh potatoes. In 2013, Pingree and Simpson pushed for an amendment to the Fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill to ensure WIC recipients had access to fresh potatoes. Pingree has also highlighted the value of potatoes in school meals.

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