The Portland-based Oregon Potato Commission expects to spend a lot of time on hot-button legislative issues this upcoming season, and Bill Brewer, the group’s executive director, is cautiously optimistic that progress will be made.

“I think we’re making some real good progress,” Brewer said. “There are so many things affecting farmers in general, and the potato farmer specifically, at both the state and national level.”

Brewer is happy with the potato industry’s success in beating back efforts to remove potatoes from school lunch programs.

One of the next big challenges is getting fresh spuds into the Women, Infants and Children program, Brewer said.

“I think we’re making headway on WIC,” he said.

At or near the top of that list will be efforts to make sure the produce industry makes its presence felt in farm bill negotiations.

“We don’t get, and don’t want direct payments, but we’re always trying to get research dollars and market access funds.”

Brewer also is optimistic that progress can be made on opening up more of Mexico to U.S. fresh potatoes.

“We’ve been working for years on complete access to Mexico, and we think we’re making headway,” he said.

In recent meetings, President Obama and Mexican president Felipe Calderon have suggested that markets for potatoes and other commodities could open soon, Brewer said.

“I think it’s good for both countries,” he said. “We will open up (to allow imports of) their potatoes, too.”