Eastern Idaho potato czar Blaine Larsen has received the vindication he expected from the Idaho Potato Commission.
The commission Thursday cleared him of mislabeling spuds that passed through a Georgia warehouse space he subleased to an East Coast operator.
Larsen, Hamer, contended he could prove Hapco Farms of Riverhead, N.Y., was responsible for packing Midwestern potatoes in bags bearing the “Grown in Idaho” trademark.
The private-label potatoes were being sold in outlets of the Publix grocery store chain headquartered in Florida.
Hapco settled with the commission June 13, agreeing to pay a $200,000 fine. The company also agreed to surrender for a year its license to repack Idaho potatoes.
In his settlement with the commission, Larsen has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine related to a charge he should have licensed the Atlanta facility for repacking, even though Hapco was a licensed repacker.
And he agreed to the charge he should have reported the matter sooner to the commission rather than trying to resolve the matter with Hapco.
Pat Kole, the commission’s attorney, said the two violations were “minor and unrelated to mislabeling or misbranding.”
Hapco’s settlement allowed it to admit no violations of its licensing agreement with the commission. A company spokesman said they agreed to settle to avoid an expensive legal battle.
Larsen has maintained he did not need to license the Georgia operation as a repacking operation, because he used it mainly as a distribution point for his own potatoes.
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