( NPC )

The National Potato Council and a dozen other U.S. state and regional potato associations on Aug. 16 thanked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for his support of expanded U.S. fresh potato exports to Mexico.

The letter to Perdue thanked him for his testimony before a recent House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. At that hearing, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, asked Perdue about USDA progress with the request by Mexico to allow growers in the state of Jalisco to export avocados to the U.S.

In response, Perdue said, “I know this is important to Mexico. We would also like to resolve the potato issue.”

The potato groups appreciated Perdue’s remark, the letter said.

“Though we recognize that the two market access issues cannot be formally linked, as they must be considered both by Mexico and the U.S. based upon the best available science, it makes great sense that their parallel paths should be concluded concurrently,” the letter from the potato groups said. “Providing enhanced access for Mexican avocado farmers absent a reciprocal benefit to U.S. potato producers would be a missed opportunity and serve to compromise a potential $150+ million annual export market.”

The letter noted that U.S. potato growers have sought full access to Mexico for over 16 years without success. During that same period, Mexican avocado growers have built a $2 billion annual export market in the U.S.

“The commitment of USDA personnel both in Washington, D.C., and Mexico in correcting this imbalance certainly merits our thanks and appreciation,” the letter said. “We look forward to the successful conclusion of the full opening of the Mexican market to U.S. fresh potatoes in the very near future.”