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Senators Want Potatoes On Plate During Mexican Talks

Crapo, Risch, Murray say $130 million in exports at stake

Washington, D.C. - When the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture renews talks with Mexico this week, potatoes should be on the plate, say U.S. Senators from Idaho and Washington. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) wrote USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, advising him to include potatoes among the trade issues he discusses with Mexican officials.

Mexico agreed in 2003 to allow the distribution of potatoes to its northern states, but, to date, have limited that trade to within a 26-kilometer zone of the U.S. border. Widening that trade area could be worth upwards of $130 million per year to U.S. producers, many of them in Idaho and Washington State.

"This is particularly troubling, given that the Mexico potato market is worth about $30 million per year to U.S. producers," wrote Crapo, Risch and Murray in a letter to Vilsack. "As a result, American growers are denied a significant trade opportunity, which industry estimates could eventually exceed $130 million per year. These lost markets exacerbate the current economic climate, as these exports could translate to significant employment growth in the agricultural sector."

Vilsack's discussions with Mexican officials on trade and other issues are expected to take place this week while the Secretary is in town for the UN-led climate change negotiations.