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ABC News reports that Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) has filed a lawsuit in US District Court claiming that "America's potato producers have conspired to fix spud prices in the $25 billion a year industry ... The grocers allege that potato growers in 12 states, controlling 80 percent of total U.S. potato acreage, have engaged in a conspiracy to fix prices--using OPEC as their model. That makes everyone's French fries, hash browns and mash more expensive, driving up the prices on many more potato-associated products."

The complaint says that the "cartel" was formed in 2003, and that the grocers charge that "growers and shippers used both pre-harvest and post-harvest methods to control and reduce the supply of taters, to raise and stabilize prices. Their methods included a deliberate reduction of potato acreage, destruction of potato inventory, and a limitation of the number of potatoes available for sale, the result being a 'dramatic increase in the prices of potatoes'."

The United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) responded with this statement: "United Potato Grower's goal has been to help growers provide quality potatoes at reasonable prices to American consumers. 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."
KC's View:

KC's View: I'm not a lawyer or an antitrust expert, so I can't make an informed comment about this suit. But I rarely let things like that stop me ...

It seems to me that the potato growers better have a really good defense, because the AWG complaint seems pretty persuasive. If they've got evidence, the potato folks may have some trouble on their hands.

One person's "reasonable prices" may be another's "fixed prices." The question will be where the judge comes down.