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Obama Administration Ignores Congress, Continues to Exclude Potatoes from the WIC Program

USDA overlooks nutrition science and retains fresh potato exclusion in final WIC rule released today

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its final rule today excluding fresh, white potatoes from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson plans to use every available tool in order to reverse the ban of potatoes in the program. “I am deeply disappointed in the USDA’s decision to ignore legislation that directed the agency to include fresh potatoes in the WIC Program,” said Simpson. “Congress’ support of potatoes in WIC is crystal clear and I intend to use every means available to me, and any possible legislative vehicle that develops, to reverse this ban and restore the rightful inclusion of white potatoes in the WIC program.”

“Excluding white potatoes from WIC seems based more on selective science than substance,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt, Chairman of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee with jurisdiction over the US Department of Agriculture and WIC funding. “My expectation is that the USDA should use base line data that is more current than the 1990's to make such sweeping decisions. This issue is far from over and we will see what happens as the process moves forward.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (H.R. 3547) that recently became law was accompanied by a clear directive outlining the expectation of Congress that all fresh vegetables be included in the WIC program:

“The agreement expects the Secretary to amend 7 CFR 246.10 in order for state agencies to include all varieties of fresh, whole, or cut vegetables, except for vegetables with added sugars, fats, oils; provided that inclusion of such vegetables contribute towards meeting the special nutritional needs of program participants and increases the availability of low-cost, high nutrient alternatives for participants throughout the year. Within 15 days of any decision not to comply, the Secretary shall submit a report to the Committees explaining such decision.”

USDA failed to incorporate its own nutritional recommendations in its final WIC rule.  For example, fresh white potatoes would supplement the diets of WIC participants with two of the four USDA Dietary Guidelines “nutrients of concern” – potassium and dietary fiber.

“When the Obama Administration ignored the latest nutritional science in developing the WIC rule, it was the responsibility of Congress to do everything in its power to allow low-income women and children continued access to healthy and economical nutrition choices. That’s what we did.” Simpson said.  “I have requested repeatedly that the Administration use current USDA Dietary Guidelines (DGA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consumption data when devising rules that affect the ability of low-income women to make smart nutritional choices for their young families. Unfortunately, it appears the Administration is not listening.”