Boosting movement in the sluggish fresh potato market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to purchase more than 30,000 50-pound bales of potatoes for school lunches and other federal assistance programs.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service on Feb. 21 asked for bids, specifing that 10 five-pound bags of russets as the desired pack, with a March 5 deadline.

The USDA plans to announce successful bids by March 12. Deliveries to Washington, California, and Arizona range from April 1 to May 31, according to the USDA.

This is not the first — or the largest — fresh potato purchase by the USDA in the 2012-13 season. In January, the USDA bought more than 500,000 50-pound bales for $5.49 million.

In November, the USDA announced a $1.66 million purchase of potatoes for processing after making a $9.5-million purchase of processed potatoes in August.

The recent USDA fresh potato purchases have not had a pronounced effect on the market so far, one market observer said.

“The potato market has been fairly steady for the last several weeks,” said Patty Wilkie, officer in charge at the Idaho Falls, Idaho, office U.S. Department of Agriculture Market News. She said Feb. 27 the price for 50-pound bales of 10 five-pound bags was ranging from $3.50 to $4.50 per master bag.