Senator Collins Calls for Direct Relief for Maine Potato Growers Amid COVID-19

Letter also offers recommendations to address supply chain backlog

Washington, D.C. – More than 1.5 billion pounds of fresh potatoes are currently stuck in the supply chain due to the widespread closure of restaurants, food establishments, hospitality businesses, and schools, as well as the cancellation of large events such as concerts and fairs during this pandemic.


In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Senator Susan Collins elevated the concerns and questions raised by representatives of the potato industry, including the Maine Potato Board, who are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the economic impact of COVID-19.  Furthermore, Senator Collins offered recommendations to the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that would address the supply backlog and called for direct relief for potato growers. 


“While the impact to Maine’s potato industry changes daily, it is estimated that more than 1,500,000 hundredweight (cwt) of processing potatoes from the 2019 crop may not be sold, which represents more than 10 percent of the total Maine 2019 crop and is valued at more than $15 million,” wrote Senator Collins.  “I am hopeful that the USDA will work closely with the U.S. potato industry to manage their backlog and to make certain that adequate direct relief is extended to producers.  I stand ready to work with you toward these goals and to address their urgent disposal needs.”


In years past, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program run by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped Maine potato growers properly dispose of excess supply since spoiled potatoes pose serious risks to future crop growth.  Senator Collins urged the USDA to provide immediate technical and financial assistance, as well as guidance on the level of funding that might be necessary to implement these critical activities.


Additionally, Senator Collins urged the USDA to analyze food service sales, rather than just those in the retail and grocery sector, to ensure that potatoes are fully eligible and the minimum payment levels in each category are meaningful for growers. 


Click HERE to read the full letter.