Labor Department says potato grower systematically violated workers’ rights—again

Blaine Larsen Inc.—one of the largest potato growers in the country—must pay hundreds of farmworkers more than $1.3 million in back wages, after a Department of Labor investigation found it had systematically underpaid employees. It is at least the third time the DOL has investigated the company for labor violations in as many years.

Feds investigating after H-2A worker died of Covid-19 complications at a Texas potato plant

Marco Antonio Galvan Gomez, a 48-year-old husband and father from Guanajuato, Mexico, had worked eight years on a seasonal visa at Larsen Farms, one of the biggest potato producers in the nation, when he died of complications related to Covid-19 on July 20. He had spent the previous 12 days struggling to keep working despite suffering from fever, aches and shortness of breath; Larsen officials denied his request to return home to Mexico, and Galvan got no medical treatment from local health officials, according to FERN's latest story, published with Texas Observer. (No paywall)

Apples and potatoes will get coronavirus aid for lost sales

In a series of adjustments to its $16-billion coronavirus relief program, the USDA said on Thursday that apple, potato, and blueberry growers would now qualify for federal payments for sales lost to the pandemic. More than one-third of the money in the program has already been paid in cash to farmers and ranchers. (No paywall)

Low prices, Hurricane Florence batter sweet potato farmers

North Carolina’s sweet potato farmers, already facing lower prices for their crop, were dealt a powerful second blow in September, when Hurricane Florence flooded the state’s top sweet potato-producing counties.

Maine becomes final state to approve GMO potato

With a decision by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, farmers in the state can now plant three varieties of genetically modified potatoes produced by J.R. Simplot Co., says the Bangor Daily News.

Trump’s latest contender for USDA passed toughest ‘ag gag’ law

President-elect Donald Trump is considering Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for secretary of agriculture, despite his record — or maybe because of it — of opposing animal rights activists, says Politico. In Idaho, Otter signed the country’s toughest “ag gag” law, which carries up to a year in jail and a maximum fine $5,000 if a person is caught using a fake ID to access a farm and then film the activities there.

U.S. cyclist is first GMO-sponsored competitor at Olympics

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, a cyclist specializing in the individual women's time trial, "will head to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro with the apparent distinction of being the first athlete ever sponsored by a crop bred using biotechnology," says Capital Press.

Organic is big in Yuma County; blight-resistant potatoes in UK

Organic farms operate 1 percent of U.S. cropland, so Yuma County in the southwestern corner of Arizona is exceptional. As much as 12 percent of farmland in the county is in organic production, reports the Yuma Sun, up from an estimated 7 percent in 2012.

GE potatoes clear reviews at USDA and FDA

The genetically engineered V11 Snowden potato developed by JR Simplot gained USDA approval for commercial cultivation and the agribusiness company based in Boise, Idaho, said the FDA concluded its GE Russet Burbank Generation 2 potatoes are safe.

Simplot part of project for blight-resistant GMO potatoes in Asia

The company that developed GMO potatoes that resist bruising will work with two universities to develop genetically modified blight-resistant potatoes for farmers in Indonesia and Bangladesh, reports Capital Press. A spokesman for JR Simplot Co., based in Boise, said the new varieties may be available for cultivation in five years.

Ketchup ‘n’ Fries? TomTato? It’s a potato-tomato plant

"It's like a science project," says Alice Doyle, of appropriately named SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables, in a story at NPR's blog The Salt about the Ketchup 'n' Fries plant that yields both cherry tomatoes and potatoes.

Thumbs down for GE potato from largest fast-food chain

Fast-food giant McDonald's says "it doesn't plan to buy...the Innate potato," genetically engineered by JR Simplot to produce smaller amounts of acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen, when fried, says the Idaho Statesman.

US approves GE potato that reduces suspect acrylamides

The Agriculture Department approved cultivation of the Innate potato developed by JR Simplot Co. and genetically engineered to produce smaller amounts of acrylamides when it is fried.