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Grocers say potato group illegally boosted spud prices, spied on farmers

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news Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A battle between grocers and potato growers has been silently hitting shoppers' pocketbooks, according to a U.S. wholesaler accusing America's spud farmers of driving up prices while spying on farmers with satellites and aircraft fly-overs to enforce strict limits on how many tubers they can grow.

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Associated Wholesale Grocers' lawsuit against United Potato Growers of America and two dozen other defendants was shifted this week to U.S. District Court in Idaho, America's top potato-producing state with 30 percent of the nation's supply.

It's unclear how much the alleged price-fixing has bumped up the cost of frozen french fries or a steaming spud served with a steak, but the case isn't small potatoes: They're America's most popular vegetable, worth billions in sales each year, and their journey from the field to the table is complex. Farmers trying to make a profit dependent on weather, water and fuel costs are pitted against grocers who worry they're getting gouged.

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