WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that the United States has significantly expanded opportunities for potato exports to Mexico after 15 years of negotiations. The development comes after the two countries reached an agreement following a letter from Senators Klobuchar, Smith, and several of their colleagues pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work with their Mexican counterparts to honor a trade deal expanding American potato access into Mexico.
The U.S. potato industry estimates this increased access to Mexico will provide a market potential of approximately $200 million per year. This represents an increase of $150 million from the current export value of $50 million.
“Minnesota ranks among the nation’s top potato producers, and our potato farmers are a key part of our state’s economy,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This announcement will help our potato exports reach new markets and customers. I’ll keep pushing to eliminate export barriers and create more trade opportunities for our farmers.”
“Until now, American potato farmers and exporters have had limited access to the Mexican marketplace,” said Sen. Smith. “This breakthrough is a huge win for Minnesota farmers who will finally have full access to the Mexican market and be able to sell their products to our southern neighbors without burdensome restrictions.”
Before this agreement, American potatoes could not be sold outside of a 16-mile zone across the Mexican border. Last year, after 15 years of negotiations, the Mexican and American governments came to an agreement that would allow American farmers and exporters to sell fresh potatoes across all of Mexico. Mexican officials initially stated that full access would begin in February 2022. However, after several last-minute demands from Mexico, the USDA and their Mexican counterparts announced the start date would be significantly delayed.
In response to this announcement, Senators Klobuchar and Smith joined their colleagues in a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack asking urging the USDA to reconsider the delay.
“We write today out of deep concern for the ongoing dispute regarding U.S. fresh potato access to Mexico. It appears that Mexico is continuing to delay restoring this access that was blocked due to legal proceedings initiated by the Mexican potato industry over seven years ago. The cost of this inaction is estimated to be $150 million to U.S. growers on an annual basis,” wrote the lawmakers. “We request that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continue to work with their counterparts in Mexico to ensure that the trade deal is honored by expeditiously reinstating access for U.S. fresh potatoes and to express that any Mexican request for enhanced agricultural access to the U.S. should not be granted until this access is restored.”
Last week, Secretary Vilsack and his Mexican counterpart, Victor Villalobos, announced an agreement to allow potatoes full access to the entire Mexican market by May 15.