Bipartisan Senate Letter Calls for Potatoes to Remain Classified a Vegetable

Senators unite around America’s number one vegetable

On March 26, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led a bipartisan group of 14 Senators in writing to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas Vilsack and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in opposition to any reclassification of potatoes as a grain instead of a vegetable during the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) process.

“Since the inception of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it has classified potatoes correctly as a vegetable,” the group of Senators wrote. “There is no debate about the physical characteristics of the potato and its horticultural scientific classification. Unlike grains, white potatoes are strong contributors of potassium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber.”

“Any change to potatoes’ current classification under the DGAs would immediately confuse consumers, retailers, restaurant operators, growers, and the entire supply chain,” the Senators continued. “We strongly urge you to avoid reclassifying potatoes as a grain or suggest grains and potatoes are interchangeable. Given the rapid timeline that the DGAs are on, we ask that you provide us an update on this issue as soon as possible.”

Joining Senators Collins and Bennet were Senators James Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

“We’re grateful for this bipartisan group of Senators have united behind a common message of keeping America’s number one vegetable classified as a vegetable,” said National Potato Council President and Colorado potato grower Bob Mattive. “Each update of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has far-ranging implications throughout federal, state, and local nutrition programs. We are calling on USDA and HHS to reject any effort by the DGA committee to ignore long-standing nutritional and horticultural science by reclassifying potatoes as a grain or suggesting that potatoes are interchangeable with non-vegetables.”

The effort to gain congressional supporters for the bipartisan letter was initiated during NPC’s Washington Summit, Feb. 26-March 1, where attendees took the issue to their Members of Congress.

The full Senate letter is available here.