CAFTA Deal Will Probably Be Delayed

Published online: Mar 03, 2004
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Following the annual National Potato Council Board of Directors meeting in Washington, DC, John Keeling, executive director, said a vote on CAFTA will probably not be taken until next year.

He said there is a 50-50 probability that because it is a tough issue and with elections coming up, it could be put off. "They [Congress] have a lot to do and don't necessarily have to do anything on it now," Keeling said.

He added that it could potentially be 2006 before everything is settled and the CAFTA nations will allow U.S. potatoes/potato products in with greatly lowered tariffs.

One sticky point is the fact the agreement includes sugar. The problem with this is if CAFTA is passed and the potential sugar imports are made, it could very seriously damage other commodity markets.

In particular, many potato growers are also sugarbeet growers. It is almost a given that if the United States sugarbeet industry is harmed by loss of markets because of lower-priced sugar imports above and beyond what is already allowed CAFTA countries through annual quotas, growers will grow other crops. In several joint sugarbeet/potato production states, the loss of sugarbeet ground could very easily go into potatoes or other crops, harming already over crowded markets.