Long Island Growers Get Attention

Published online: Oct 29, 2004
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Long Island, NY, growers have complained about the importation of Canadian potatoes to the point Senator Charles Schumer of New York is asking the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate the impact of Canada's unfair trade practices.

Long Island growers claim their markets have been damaged to the point commercial growers could lose up to $30,000 each per year by the flooding into the New York Market of Canadian shipments.

Schumer has urged the Commerce Department to look into Canada's unfair trade practices and to recommend an action plan to compensate them for their losses. The senator also pushed USTR to press the isssue in formal negotiations in Canada.

Althouth the island's industry is small, growers claim they cannot ship their potatoes into Canada because of unfair restrictions put on U.S. imports while Canadian potatoes flow into New York almost unabated.

"Canada has thumbed its nose at NAFTA and the World Trade Organization and the result has been economic damage to Long Island farmers. It's not enough to simply tell the Canadians not to do it again," Schumer said.

"We need to protect our farmers by putting our foot down and the only way to do that is to watch Canada like a hawk. If we don't stay on them, who will? Because there's no regulatory agency to ensure their compliance, it's up to us and us alone," Schumer said.

Canada effectively blocks imports of Long Island potatoes and other produce by setting a higher standard for granting ministerial exemptions to allow the import of bulk U.S. agriclture produce than it does for domestic bulk shipments.

For U.S. imports, either the province receiving the imports or the neighboring providces can object to the shipment on the grounds there is a domestic source of the produce.

For domestic shipments only the receivng province needs to approve the bulk shipment. Schumer said that Canada' practice of treating imports less favorabaly than the same domestic products violates both WTO and NAFTA rules.

In July Schumer and 11 other members of Congress wrote to Donald Evans, Ssecretary of the Commerce Department, asking support for the National Potato Council's request for an investigation before the Unfair Trade Practices Task Force. Schumer and 30 other members of Congress wrote to the Canadian Ambassasdor asking Canada to work with the Untied States to solve the problem.