For additional coverage, please see "Potato growers, groups maintain innocence in antitrust cases"
(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 24, 4:10 p.m.) In a recently-filed lawsuit, Associated Wholesale Grocers claims that the United Potato Growers of America, United Potato state groups and many potato grower-shippers are illegally setting potato prices.
AWG specifically mentions Albert Wada of Wada Farms, who traveled extensively in the mid-2000s to convince potato growers in other states to follow Idaho growers’ leads in establishing United Potato groups. A number of other founding members of the groups are also named in the complaint.
Despite forming under the Capper-Volstead Act, which allows growers to meet and set goals to stabilize markets without fear of antitrust laws, the United Potato groups are operating outside the Act because growers have affiliations to marketing/processing/and other non-grower entities, according to the lawsuit, filed April 17 in Kansas City, Kan.
The Kansas City, Kan.-based wholesaler filed suit against Wada, his Idaho companies, the Salt Lake City-based United Potato Growers of America and 20 other potato companies, organizations and individuals. The case is in U.S. District Court in Kansas.
“United Potato Grower’s goal has been to help growers provide quality potatoes at reasonable prices to American consumers," said Jerry Wright, president and chief executive officer of UPGA
"We have always acted openly and within the bounds of the law. We are confident in our legal position and look forward to a favorable outcome in court.”
A statement issued by Wada Farms on April 24 said the company operates within the law.
“Since 1943 our goal has always been to put quality potatoes on the American table with integrity and respect," the Wada statemt said. "We have consistently worked within the boundaries of the law to keep farming healthy and Americans happy for 70 years. That’s a real success story, and one we always look forward to telling.”
AWG requested a jury trial in the case and is seeking a permanent injunction to stop the defendants from meeting through the United Potato groups.