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Bill would end state's sack-of-potato regulations - abc27 WHTM

Bill would end state's sack-of-potato regulations

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

It's not exactly a hot potato at the Capitol, but it isn't small potatoes either.

Pennsylvania has long been regulating how large a sack of potatoes consumers can purchase. They can buy them in three-pound bags, and five-pound bags, and bags of 10,15, 20, 25, 50 and 100 pounds, or multiples of a hundred.

But not eight-pound bags, or 11-pound bags. Sell a 13-pound bag, and you're breaking the law.

"That's stupid," said shopper Barb Kline of Mechanicsburg.

"I didn't know there was a law," said Marie Krall. "I didn't think it was important enough to be a law."

Marie's not alone. Even the folks who make laws didn't know such a blue—or in this case red-skinned—law was on the books.

"I didn't know it existed until a potato farmer in Schuylkill County contacted me and said, look, we'd like to sell an eight-pound bag, we're not allowed, can you help us fix it?" said Senator David Argall -  (R) Schuylkill County.

Argall thinks the law is half-baked, so he cooked up a bill to strip the weight restrictions out and replace the language with "any increment."

It was apparently a winning recipe, because it passed the senate agriculture committee unanimously on Tuesday morning.

"We think it should be left up to the free market," Argall said. "Let the farmers and the consumers decide how big of a bag of potatoes they want to buy."

Perry County farmer Brian Dobbs has a produce stand at the farmer's market at the Harrisburg Farm Show. He applauds Argall's effort.

"I like it," Dobbs said. "I think the customers should be able to buy what they want, and it makes it easier for us."

The law is old, and nobody at the Capitol could explain why taters were targeted in the first place.

"I don't think they have any business legislating that," Kline said. "I think there are more important matters."

In 1996 lawmakers actually tweaked the law and made bags under three pounds legal.

But it makes one wonder: Is there a potato police making sure Pennsylvanians are safe from an 8, 11 or 17-pound sacks of spuds?

"Does anybody actually enforce the current law?" Argall asks with a laugh. "We don't know. But let's not turn the potato farmers of Pennsylvania into lawbreakers. Let's change the law and allow them to do it as they see fit."

In Pennsylvania, potato farms took up nearly 9,000 acres last year and generated just over $36 million.

For national potato producers an eight-pound bag is very common. They sell them in other states but cannot in Pennsylvania.

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