Letters: Mozart's Violin And The Price Of Potatoes

Jun 18, 2013
Originally published on June 18, 2013 5:18 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now to your comments about the program.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIOLIN MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Some of you wrote about a story we aired on Mozart's violin and viola. The instruments were in the United States for the first time.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And we incorrectly reported that they were made in the 17th century. In fact, they were both made around the year 1700 at the beginning of the 18th century.

SIEGEL: And another story that bears some clarification also involving some numbers, it has to do with the price of potatoes.

BLOCK: That's right. Yesterday, John Miller of the Associated Press in Boise, Idaho, told us about a lawsuit filed against potato farmers. The Associated Wholesale Grocers filed the suit. They alleged that the United Potato Growers of America have been illegally driving up prices.

And, Robert, let's listen to part of your conversation.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

According to the plaintiff here, what kind of a premium are we paying because of what they allege is a potato cartel and what it's doing?

JOHN MILLER: Well, a 10-pound bag of potatoes, you know, might previously have gone for eight or $9. And, you know, after that - and this is 2006 figures - this is two years after the United Potato Growers of America organized, that perhaps folks were paying about $15 for a bag of 10-pound potatoes.

BLOCK: Well, that exchange said sent some of the grocery shoppers in our audience to their keyboards.

You should get a grocery store to give you prices of potatoes, thanks Mary Phillips(ph), of Baker City, Oregon. She goes on: If the public had to pay the prices for potatoes that he quoted, nobody could afford them.

SIEGEL: And Nathan Keith(ph), of Portland, Oregon, writes: Where do you shop that potatoes are $15 for 10 pounds? My local Safeway is 10 pound of Idaho russets for $2.79.

BLOCK: OK, so now the clarification. As you may have noted, Robert asked John Miller to tell us what the plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit. And when we called Miller up today to double check, he again pointed us to figures quoted in the suit by the Associated Wholesale Grocers.

SIEGEL: And here is what the lawsuit says, and we quote, "By the summer of 2008, according to the Idaho Potato Commission, a 10-pound bag of potatoes cost consumers $15, up $6 over 2007."

The year was different than Miller cited but those are, indeed, the prices quoted by the Grocers.

BLOCK: Fifteen dollars for a 10-pound bag of potatoes in 2008, the suit claims. Well, NPR called the Idaho Potato Commission today to find out where they got those figures - so far, no answer. But the USDA says a five-pound bag that same year retailed for an average, Robert, of $2.55. So that would make a - what, a 10-pound bag under $6, not $15.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. So is his lawsuit half-baked? Well, we'll leave it to you, the audience, to put a fork in it.

BLOCK: Ah, couldn't help ourselves. Sorry. But whether you want to butter us up or pepper us with scorn, please send us your emails. Go to NPR.org and click on Contact Us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.