Picture: Mashed potatoes from last year's potato harvest featuring the natural colors of the potato flesh.
Northwest Food News has a great report on how local food advocates and the Idaho Potato Commission recently butted heads in the Idaho legislature.
A resolution was brought before the ag committee simply proposing that the Idaho legislature endorse local food. In response to this rather tame, teethless proposal Frank Muir, the CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission stood up as the lone opponent;
Well Mr. Chairman, Representatives it will probably come as somewhat of a surprise that the Idaho Potato Commission is here to testify in opposition to HCR-56 and on the surface I would be shocked too because it sounds positive, in support of the grower, in support of eating locally and the problem that we have with this is that Idaho Potatoes is not local. Idaho Potatoes is a global brand.
He went on to explain that the growing emphasis on locally grown food led Walmart to shift gears;
The largest retailer in the country discontinued Idaho potatoes in 5 distribution centers – not 5 stores – 5 distribution centers. Not because Idaho potatoes wasn’t selling; it was because they were now focusing on buying from the local farmers.
There are several fascinating aspects to this development. For one, stores as big as Walmart are shifting gears in the way they distribute food. I've always said that any substantial shift toward local food would take change at the large retailers and it looks like that is actually happening.
The other interesting aspect is that this shift creates dilemmas for places like Idaho that have low populations and high production of food. A big portion of the Idaho economy is built on exporting milk, potatoes and other agricultural products. When McDonald's in Seattle starts bragging about using Washington grown potatoes that's a problem for Idaho potatoes. They can't compete with that. People that have gone to great lengths to nurture "global brands" are coming to grips with a new marketplace that values local brands.