Tipton Questions Vilsack on Status of SLV Potato Exports into Mexico

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for an update on the status of expanded U.S. potato exports into Mexico during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the state of the rural economy. Increasing potato exports into Mexico would benefit U.S. producers, including those in the San Luis Valley, and lead to increased trade revenue and American job creation.

Mexico has limited fresh U.S. potato imports by raising safety concerns through foreign sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. SPS measures are non-tariff food requirements from foreign nations intended to protect the health and safety of their populations and environments. While SPS measures permit all nations to ban products that are unsafe, in too many instances foreign nations have imposed SPS measures that have little to do with scientifically-based safety concerns and have instead become the preferred means to protect their own agriculture industries from competition.

SPS measures can be used by foreign governments to manipulate trade practices in violation of their treaty commitments, even though the EPA and FDA and many international organizations have used scientific methods to certify American products as safe. This has been the case with U.S. potato imports into Mexico. These barriers are hurting jobs. Every $1 billion in agricultural exports supports over 8,000 American jobs; therefore we must make fair trade a higher priority.

Watch video of Rep. Scott Tipton questioning Secretary Vilsack during the hearing. The question regarding exports is second on the video.

Transcript of their Q&A:

TIPTON: In the San Luis Valley, we have a lot of potatoes we would like to export into Mexico. Can you give us an update on where that is at? It seems like in dealing with the Mexican government that we have an inability to export our potatoes and they are trying to use phytosanitary issues to inhibit that.

VILSACK: This is a good example of those circumstances where barriers are created that have no justification in science and are contrary to agreements. We’ve been working with the Mexican government to create a process by which access to their markets would be expanded significantly. We had an agreement with Minister Mayorga from the previous government to potentially open up that market. We are going through a process now with the Mexican government to refine that agreement and the technical aspects of it. The hope is with the new administration that we will be able to carry that agreement forward and ultimately see access. We had some success in reopening the beef market in Mexico.  That gives us some degree of optimism that this is an opportunity for us to also reopen that potato market. It's very, very limited, and we don't think is justified.

As he has done in the previous Congress, Tipton is committed to working to increase potato exports into Mexico and expand job opportunities for the San Luis Valley.

Background

In January, 2012, the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, under the chairmanship of Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), held a hearing on the impact of foreign sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on small family farms and agriculture exports.

During that hearing, Roger Mix, Owner-Operator of Mix Farms in Center, Colorado, testified about the double-standard that we often see as the result of the misuse of SPS measures: “Mexican potatoes produced in areas of the country with identical pest profiles as those in U.S. production areas have been allowed to move throughout Mexico if they are washed or brushed and labeled for consumption only. Yet U.S. fresh potato exports to Mexico are not allowed to move in a similar manner. The application of a different standard for domestic production than for imports clearly violates the globally accepted principle of “National Treatment.”  Additionally, he noted that Colorado is the second largest producer of fresh potatoes in the nation ($200 million market value in 2011), with a potential to increase exports into Mexico.

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