A group of U.S. Senators is encouraging action to be taken in the potato dispute with Mexico. In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lawmakers urged more support for U.S. exports of fresh potatoes. Mexico was the third most important destination for potato exports in the marketing year 2019, valued at $239 million.
“Although U.S. potato producers can ship processed, dried, and frozen potatoes to Mexico, their access to the fresh potato market has been severely restricted and exports are only permitted within an approximately sixteen-mile zone south of the U.S.-Mexico border,” the letter states. “We encourage you to consider the use of all available mechanisms, including the new dispute resolution authority under the USMCA, to ensure Mexico honors its agreement to allow U.S. potatoes to reach Mexican consumers.”
The potato dispute stems from a lawsuit brought by ComitéNacional Sistema Producto Papa which reinstated a ban on fresh potato imports from the U.S. The matter is currently pending further action by the Mexican Supreme Court. In the letter, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, Cory Gardner, and James Risch point out the value of trade between the U.S. and Mexico which is expected to grow with the implementation of the USMCA.
“We strongly support the benefits of trade between the United States and Mexico,” the letter reads. “As you continue market access conversations with Mexico, we again urge you to continue to advocate for U.S. fresh potato exports and to further strengthen U.S.-Mexico trade relations.”
According to Potatoes USA, the volume of American exports of frozen potato products increased 12 percent to Mexico for the marketing year 2020, after a 20 percent retaliatory tariff resulted in a disappointing 2019. Last year California was the tenth most prominent state for potato production. According to USDA, California potato production has remained relatively stable over the past three years, at approximately 39,000 acres.