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Idaho potatoes take center stage at Syrian peace talks in Paris

At peace talks in Paris today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a pair of hefty Idaho potatoes, prompting an oddly festive moment of diplomacy during otherwise grim talks. Kerry quickly sought to disavow any deep diplomatic meaning from the spuds, the AP reported, explaining that he was in Idaho over the holidays when he and Lavrov spoke by phone. The Russian, it seemed, associated Idaho with potatoes. "He told me he's not going to make vodka. He's going to eat them," Kerry said of Lavrov, who was next to him at an otherwise somber news conference on militant threats to humanitarian aid for Syria.

Kerry added: "I really want to clarify: There's no hidden meaning. There's no metaphor. There's no symbolic anything. … He recalled the Idaho potatoes as being something that he knew of, so I thought I would surprise him and bring him some good Idaho potatoes." Lavrov said, "In Poland, they make vodka from potatoes. I know this. But that's in Poland." Kerry tried to steer the discussion back to Iran or Syria, but Lavrov plowed on. "We used to do this in the Soviet Union," he said. "Now we try to do it from wheat." Click below for the full AP report from Paris.

Spud skirmish lands in federal court

There's apparently something of a potato price war on, the Associated Press reports, as a battle between grocers and potato growers has 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. The spud skirmish has been silently hitting shoppers' pocketbooks, the Associated Wholesale Grocers charge in a lawsuit against potato growers in U.S. District Court in Idaho, while the growers say they're just doing smart marketing through agricultural cooperatives as authorized by a 1922 federal law. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Giant potato hits the road to promote Idaho spuds

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Call it Tuber Tour 2012. The Idaho Potato Commission is commemorating its 75th anniversary and hoping to dispel some bad press for potatoes by taking a lifelike, six-ton spud on a seven-month, 32-state tour. The Big Idaho Potato departed the state Capitol Friday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Gov. Butch Otter. The building-sized potato that was first seen at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be making stops that include Chicago, New York, Washington, Denver and Los Angeles. The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/H3f8lP) that one stop will be outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where officials last year questioned whether potatoes should be included in school lunches and banned it from the food stamp program; read more at the Capital Press here. The public can trace the route on the Big Idaho Potato's website, http://www.bigidahopotato.com.

Kevin: Potato Study Raises Questions

Now those researchers — those meddling quinoa-cooking do-gooders — have just gone too far. They’ve singled out the potato, our potato, as a leading cause of weight gain. Those scapegoating scientists! Where do they get off, slathering on the blame like so much sour cream on a russet? (Excuse me for a second, as I stop frothing at the mouth and commence to salivating. OK, I’m back.) And where do these scientists “work,” you know, for lack of a better word? At, gasp, Harvard! Well, let’s just adopt an affected New England accent and pass the couscous, why don’t we? But here’s the problem. What if these pointy-heads actually have a point? What if their theory isn’t — sorry, I can’t resist —half-baked?/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Are you having second thoughts re: potatoes since the release of the Harvard study?

Gov. Otter: Potato getting a ‘bad rap’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is ripping the new Harvard University study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that finds a link between eating Idaho's most famous crop - the potato - and weight gain.  "News flash: Regularly eating ANYTHING in an irresponsible way contributes to weight gain and other health concerns!" Otter declares in an op-ed piece. He adds, "You might be interested to know that at age 69, besides being Governor I still actively work my ranch and compete in rodeo events – and I get my energy from regularly eating Idaho’s famous potatoes – Harvard, the New England Journal of Medicine and the Los Angeles Times notwithstanding." Click below to read his full.

Is There Room On Plate For Potatoes?

The new American symbol for a healthy diet is laden with vegetables, and it includes plenty of room on the plate for Idaho potatoes. The dinner plate-based guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released last week is divided into four parts. Fruits and vegetables take up half the space; grains and proteins take up the other half. The plate, which replaces the food pyramid that’s been in place for two decades, encourages people to fill their plates at least half full with fruits and vegetables. “The overall message is very simple, and I applaud the effort to make people understand that fruits and vegetables should be half your meal,” said Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “I’d also encourage people to make sure they’re using the right-sized plate”/Erika Bolstad, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo: Organic potatoes are harvested at the Holm farms, west of Idaho Falls)

Question: Which is your favorite way to eat potatoes?