Potato growers, groups maintain innocence in antitrust cases - The Packer

Potato growers, groups maintain innocence in antitrust cases

04/25/2013 01:45:00 PM
Coral Beach

The AWG case and the consolidated cases contend the potato growers, shippers and processors decided to fix prices and control plantings and then organized what they thought would be legal cooperatives to achieve those goals.

After organizing the original United Potato group in Idaho in 2004, the defendants decreased fresh potato plantings by 70,000 acres in 2005, according to the lawsuits. The suits state that the defendants’ actions by 2005-06 had increased the price of fresh potatoes by 48%.

The complaints quote the 2011 annual report from United Potato Growers of America as stating the “total shipments of fresh potatoes had fallen from 107.37 million cwt. in 2004-05 to 95.36 million cwt. in 2010-11. Correspondingly, the growers’ average return had more than tripled, rising from $3.11 per cwt. in 2004-05 to $11.42 per cwt. in 2010-11.”

The plaintiffs contend the potato growers and companies are not protected by the Capper-Volstead Act because it does not apply to processors or others that do not actually produce agricultural products.

“As an initial matter, Capper-Volstead does not protect pre-planting acreage reductions — one of the central agreements at issue in this case,” the complaint also states.

Judge Winmill somewhat agreed with that legal philosophy in his order of Dec. 2, 2011.

“Plaintiffs contend that the list of activities protected by the Capper-Volstead Act excludes acreage reductions, production restrictions, or collusive crop planning. The court agrees,” Winmill wrote.

“… the language of the Capper-Volstead Act itself indicates that it does not apply to production limitations. … under the plain language of the statute, coordinating and reducing acreage for planting is not allowed.”

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