Grocers allege potato group pumped up spud prices

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A U.S. wholesale grocer says America's potato farmers are running an illegal price-fixing scheme, driving up spud prices while spying on farmers with satellites to enforce strict limits on how many tubers they can grow.

Kansas-based Associated Wholesale Grocers' lawsuit against United Potato Growers of America was shifted this week to U.S. District Court in Idaho, America's biggest potato-producing state.

The grocery group, which supplies more than 2,000 stores in 24 states, contends the cooperative's members banded together in 2004 to inflate prices in a predatory scheme akin to the petroleum-producing OPEC cartel.

United Potato Growers of America, with growers in 15 states representing three-quarters of U.S. fresh potato production, counters it's succeeded within the bounds of antitrust laws in bringing the potato industry back from the brink of ruin.

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