Cantwell works on potato politics

Source: KNDO

KNDO TV - Staff

Senator Maria Cantwell is pushing to get more northwest potatoes sold to Mexico; a market that has the potential to bring in millions for the industry.

This week, Senator Cantwell asked a US Trade Representative about what's being done to break into the Mexican market. Cantwell is pushing to increase potato exports to Mexico, which could turn pesos into major dollar signs for local potato farmers. Potatoes are big business, but they could be a much bigger business here in Washington if they could be sold to all of Mexico.

"We've been very aggressive at getting Northwest product into that country," said Cantwell.

Right now the spuds can only make it sixteen miles past the border, but the government is now pushing for full access. Even with the sixteen mile law, Mexico is the second largest buyer of fresh U.S. potatoes. Estimates are that full access to their market would raise the U.S. potato export market from $24 million to $100 million dollars in the next five years.

Getting full access to Mexican markets has been the top priority for the National Potato Commission for years, but Vice President of NPC, Randy Mullen, said the odds have been low.

"I would say we have a better than 50-50 chance of getting the access opened and that's a lot better than it has been over the last five years or so," said Mullen.

In 2010, Department of Agriculture negotiations with Mexico stalled, but Cantwell is urging the U.S. Trade Representative to keep the pressure on Mexico. It's a top government agriculture priority, but when a resolution might come is uncertain said the negotiator from the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, Islam Siddiqui.

"Hard for me to predict, but it continues to be one of the highest priorities," said Siddiqui.