WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- Led by a former spud digger from the fields of Maine, the Senate today blocked the Obama administration's attempt to limit potatoes in school lunches in a bid to cut french fry consumption.
The Agriculture Department proposed limiting potatoes and other starchy vegetables to two servings a week. But Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who grew up harvesting potatoes in Aroostook County, objected, and her colleagues accepted her amendment preventing the USDA from putting any limits on tubers or vegetables.
"The fact is that french fries are a problem but potatoes are not," Collins said last month during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the agricultural spending bill, The Hill reported. "I don't know what (Agriculture) Secretary (Tom) Vilsack has against potatoes, but I'm going to invite him to northern Maine for a nice feast."
In a June letter to the USDA's undersecretary of food and nutrition, Collins noted that potatoes are Maine's top cash crop and said they "contain significant levels of potassium, vitamin C, iron, dietary fiber, and other nutrients that are important for growing children and expectant mothers."
Figures for 2010 (pdf) show Maine was the sixth-largest potato producer nationwide, though the industry has declined over the past 30 years. Idaho remains No. 1.
The Wall Street Journal highlighted the food fight back in May.