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USDA to Keep the Potato Classified as Vegetable, Not a Grain

Secretary Vilsack Called Senator Collins yesterday to tell her the news

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins received a call yesterday from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack who told her the USDA will officially support keeping potatoes classified as a vegetable, and not a grain.  

This decision followed the bipartisan letter she led with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) opposing any reclassification of potatoes as a grain instead of a vegetable, or including recommendations that potatoes and grains are interchangeable as changes to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) are being considered.

“The reclassification of potatoes would have sent a false message to the public that the USDA believes that potatoes are not healthy.  The fact is, when prepared properly, the potato is a wonderfully nutritious food that is affordable, easy to transport, has a long storage life, and can be used in a wide array of recipes,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased Secretary Vilsack called me personally to tell me that the USDA has no intention of reclassifying potatoes and recognizes that potatoes are, in fact, a vegetable.  I urge the DHHS to follow the USDA’s lead and recognize the same reality.”

The USDA shares jurisdiction over the DGAs process with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). Senator Collins is still waiting for a written response from DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.  

Senator Collins has been an unwavering supporter of Maine’s potato industry throughout her Senate service.  For example, in October of 2011, President Obama’s USDA proposed a rule that would have banned white potatoes from the national school breakfast and limited its use in the lunch programs.  In response, Senator Collins and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced an amendment that prohibited the rule. It passed unanimously. Senator Collins continues to secure language annually in the Agriculture appropriation bill that prevents USDA from imposing limitations on potatoes in the school breakfast and lunch program.

Here are nutritional facts about the white potato:

• Potatoes have more potassium than bananas, a food commonly associated with this nutrient.

• Potatoes are cholesterol-free, fat-free, and sodium-free, and can be served in countless healthy ways.

• A medium baked potato contains 15 percent of the daily recommended value of dietary fiber, 27 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin B6, and 28 percent of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C.