Friday December 07, 2012 | 03:46 PM

WASHINGTON – As a native of Maine’s potato-growing region, Sen. Susan Collins is not shy when it comes to promoting or defending the humble spud.

When the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted last year to limit potatoes use in public school lunches, Collins and fellow Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe successfully fought to keep them on the cafeteria menu. And recently, she was photographed at the White House presenting an Obama administration official with a special bag of Aroostook-grown potatoes.

So her name was notably absent from a letter signed by Maine's other three members of Congress urging the owners of the growing burger chain Five Guys to use Maine potatoes for the fries they sell in the state.

Did Collins have something against Five Guys, a chain that started in the DC area and has exploded in popularity in part because of their fresh-cut, oversized fries? Or was she kept out of the loop by her Maine colleagues?

Turns out, the answer is "no" to both.

Collins was asked to sign onto the letter (which began in the office of Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-District 2). But a staffer mistakenly neglected to get Collins' John Hancock in time and, several days later, the letter went out without it.

But Collins fully supports Five Guys buying Maine potatoes for their Portland and soon-to-be-opened Bangor location. In fact, she penned her own letter to the franchisees saying so.

“As a native of Aroostook County Maine, I can attest that Maine potatoes are of the highest quality and the best tasting in the United States,” Collins wrote. “As Five Guys expands in Maine, it has the opportunity to purchase this excellent, locally grown product. Purchasing local products can result in fresher food and limit transportation costs while supporting Maine farms and communities.”

A spokeswoman for Five Guys told the Portland Press Herald that the company plans to test some Maine potatoes later this year.



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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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