“But the potato discussion has been going on for years and has been contentious. I really don’t think the tomato agreement has any impact on us (the potato industry).”
JungmeyerLance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales, Ariz., is concerned about the potato rule, as well as the U.S. tomato suspension agreement with Mexico. However, he stopped short of saying the two trade issues are related.
“Absent pest concerns, we support open markets between the U.S. and Mexico for all items, but unfortunately we’ve been drawn into a wild goose chase that is sapping away resources to move trade forward between both countries,” Jungmeyer said Jan. 3.
“The food production in both countries is complementary, and consumers in both countries should be able to enjoy food at reasonable prices that meets market demand.”
Full access to the Mexican market would allow U.S. growers to reach 70 million to 80 million more consumers, Keeling said. Industry leaders say full access would mean $150 million in export value to U.S. growers.
“We plan to submit comments the week of Jan. 14 and will discuss in broad terms the pest mitigation and other factors,” Kole said.
“The U.S. potato industry speaks with one voice on this issue and we know the National Potato Council is working to deliver the message.”
The Washington Potato Commission, Moses Lake, Wash., also plans to submit comments, said Matt Harris, assistant executive director. He said Washington exported 21,000 tons of potatoes to Mexico this past year.
“We are trying to figure out why they made the change,” Harris said. “There is no clear answer to that question. For 10 years they were working in one direction and then (in November) everything changed.”
A bipartisan group of 17 U.S. senators from potato-producing states is also pursuing enforcement of the terms of the 2003 agreement. The senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Dec. 21 asking for the administration’s help to resolve the potato export issue.
Senators who signed that letter were: Mark Udall, D-Colo.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Kent Conrad, D-N.D.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; John Hoeven, D-N.D.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Max Bacus, D-Mont.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.