Published online: Oct 14, 2011 Seed Potatoes
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The United Fresh Produce Association and the National Potato Council welcome the passage of three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South America.

Passed with broad support from both parties Wednesday evening, the South Korean trade agreement allows for immediate elimination of tariffs on American-grown asparagus and certain kinds of tomatoes, the Panama agreement will lead to the elimination of tariffs on almost all fruit products and the Columbia agreement will do away with most barriers to trade for U.S. products. These agreements will have a direct impact on key regions in the fruit and vegetable industry. United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther offers the following statement on the passage of the agreements:

"This key development in trade policy represents a win for agriculture across the board with up to $2.5 billion in new agricultural exports and support for up to 22,500 jobs involved. Increasing opportunities for those who grow and ship fresh produce is the foundation for the future success of the industry. Making foreign markets more accessible to American producers is one critical way to making sure that the produce industry retains the vitality and diversity necessary to keep growing. The fresh produce industry is an increasingly global one, reaching and impacting all corners of the world. The trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, collectively offer a significant opportunity for U.S. agricultural exporters. Through the bipartisan efforts of Congress and the administration, these new trade agreements will help to foster trade with these important markets, create jobs and support continued growth of the fresh produce industry in the United States."

The following statement is from Randy Hardy, NPC Vice President of Trade Affairs and owner of Hardy Farms, a potato growing operation in Oakley, Idaho, on the transmission by the Obama Administration of the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for a vote:

"As a committed supporter of liberalized and fair trade with all foreign markets, NPC is pleased the White House has submitted the South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress. The strength of the U.S. potato industry is heavily dependent on exports, and these markets represent some of the strongest export opportunities for the industry. NPC urges Congress to quickly finalize these trade agreements in order to level the playing field for U.S. producers, jump start our national economy, and stimulate job growth in rural America."

In 2009, U.S. potato growers produced more than 43 billion pounds of potatoes at a farm-gate value of $3.5 billion. An average of fifteen percent of the crop is exported yearly. Exports for 2010 were valued at $1.25 billion, a 6 percent increase over 2009.