Washington, D.C. - As the United States and China conduct trade negotiations, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) and Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jared Golden (D-ME) joined a bipartisan group in sending a letter to the Trump Administration asking that the U.S. potato industry be a priority in the ongoing talks. In the bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by 39 members, they noted that the inclusion of potatoes in any U.S.-China trade deal would create significant economic growth and result in new jobs.
The U.S. potato industry has a $3.7 billion farm gate value, and that success relies on finding an international market for one out of five potatoes produced. Since 2000, opening access to China for U.S. fresh potatoes has been a priority for U.S. potato growers and included on every bilateral agenda.
“As you and the members of your administration work with the People’s Republic of China to resolve trade disputes, we request your attention to an agriculture trade issue that has gone unresolved for nearly 20 years,” the Members of Congress wrote. “Notwithstanding the diligent efforts of the United States Trade Representative and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), China has not opened their market to fresh potatoes from the United States and has left U.S. potato growers without a clear path forward on how to resolve concerns that are standing in the way of opening this important market.”
“If access to China’s fresh potato market is granted to the United States, it is estimated that China could become a top five market for U.S. potato exports. This would result in new jobs in communities throughout the country and ensure the U.S. potato industry remains competitive in the international marketplace,” they continued. “For this reason, we ask that the USTR ensures that new market opportunities for U.S. potatoes are included in any trade negotiations with China.”
"The Maine Potato Board would like to thank Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden for supporting the efforts to open the market for US fresh potatoes in China,” said Don Flannery, Executive Director of the Maine Potato Board. “It is extremely important to Maine potato growers that China and other export markets are available to fresh potatoes grown in the United States. While export of fresh potatoes aren't a major part of Maine's market we support exports opportunities for other US growers as it will helps build demand domestically for Maine grown potatoes."
The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tina Smith (D-MN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), and U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ken Buck (R-CO), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Denny Heck (D-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Daniel Kildee (D-MI), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Paul Mitchell (R-MI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Scott Tipton (R-CO), Greg Walden (R-OR).
Click HERE to read the full letter.