PGI Gets USDA-FAS Hearing March 2
A hearing will be held in Washington, DC, Wednesday, March 2, on a petition filed under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Farmers Program by Idaho growers.
The growers requested the public hearing to present evidence that imported frozen french fries are in direct competition with the sales of fresh Idaho potatoes.
Under the TAA program, USDA provides technical assistance and cash benefits to growers and others if increasing imports or a like or directly competitive commodity contribute to the decline in producer prices and a net loss of income.
A Federal Register Notice announcing the filing was published on February 11. Access to this notice is available on the wet at http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/fr/notices/html.
To speak at the hearing, growers and industry officials must register with the TAA coordinator at (202) 720-2916 at least 24 hours before the hearing.
The hearing will take place in the South Agriculture Building, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 5066-S.
According to a news release today, the PGI has been studying the program during the last year to determine if growers could prove their case. Several consultants have provided analysis that documents a 30 percent reduction in fresh market prices caused by a surge in frozen french fry imports from Canada.
Because Idaho's crop is interchanageable from the fresh to the process frozen market, the analysts concluded that the large volumes of imported Canadian fries were the root cause of the loss in value suffered by Idaho growers for the crop year of 2003.
If the petition is successful, it could mean direct payments to growers of up to $10,000, technical assistance and educational benefits for affected growers.
PGI leaders are planning to testify at the hearing. Under terms of the program, all petitions will be judged for eligibility by mid-March. Growers will then have 90 days to apply for benefits.
"We believe we are justified in seeking this assistance on behalf of our Idaho grower members," said PGI President Doug Hanks. "It's just a matter of making the case to USDA's satisfaction. We're confident we have provided the government with what they need."