Hoeven Urges Administration to Press for Access to Chinese Market for U.S. Fresh Potato Exports

Senator Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Group in Advancing Free, Fair Trade for Potato Growers

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) recently joined a bipartisan, bicameral group in urging the administration to prioritize market access for U.S. potato growers as it continues trade negotiations with China. In 2016, the U.S. potato industry had a production value of $3.7 billion, 20 percent of which was due to sales in international markets. Access to the Chinese market for fresh potatoes would support significant economic growth for producers, and accordingly, this priority has been included on every bilateral agenda between the two nations since 2000.

“Our nation’s potato growers do a great job producing a high-quality commodity,” said Hoeven. “Access to foreign markets helps ensure our farmers receive a good price and maintains a strong ag economy. That’s why we’re urging the administration to address this priority as it continues working to secure a better trade agreement with China, opening up this important market for U.S. exports of fresh potatoes.” 

This recent effort follows similar work by Hoeven to ensure U.S. potato growers are treated fairly by Canada. Last fall, Hoeven urged officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to look into Canada’s trade practices. This includes Canada’s restrictions on imports of U.S. fresh potatoes, while at the same time, exporting increasing amounts of potatoes to the U.S. 

Prior to this, Hoeven organized meetings between the Northern Plains Potato Growers and the administration, including Gregg Doud, Deputy Ambassador and Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the USTR, to review the issue and advance a study by the International Trade Commission (ITC) on the economic impacts of Canada’s trade practices.

The letter was led by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and U.S. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Kurt Schrader (D-Wash.). It was also signed by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Angus King (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and U.S. Representatives Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.). 

The full text is available below:

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

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. 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.

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. In addition, two delegations of experts from China traveled to the United States for thorough in-person meetings and on the ground evaluations of fresh potato farming, processing and shipping practices. Following these discussions and visits, the U.S. potato industry has worked diligently to provide science-based research and answer every question posed regarding the safety of fresh potatoes grown in the United States. These efforts have resulted in no meaningful commitments from China to work with the U.S. potato industry to resolve concerns.

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. For this reason, we ask that the USTR ensures that new market opportunities for US potatoes are included in any trade negotiations with China.

Thank you for your consideration.