Moving Forward

The potato industry is keeping up the good fight in D.C.

Published online: Aug 08, 2018 Articles John Keeling, Executive VP and CEO, National Potato Council
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This article appears in the 2018 IGSA Yearbook/Convention Program.

This year is shaping up to be one of both challenges and opportunities as the potato industry confronts a host of domestic and international issues. This year’s Potato D.C. Fly-In in February framed many of these priorities in one-on-one meetings with senators, representatives and key administration decision-makers. This year, an unprecedented number of senators and congressmen addressed Fly-In attendees on Capitol Hill. Their participation was an indication of the value these members of Congress place on the success of the potato industry and the jobs it creates across our country.

Burdensome government regulations can stifle the growth of our industry. The National Potato Council (NPC) is front and center in pushing the federal government to eliminate or reform such negative regulations. Already in 2018, we have seen success in pushing the Department of Transportation to change its electronic logging device (ELD) and hours-of-service (HOS) rules to provide more flexibility for our unique industry. We continue to press the administration and Congress to revise those rules to provide maximum flexibility to our industry while adhering to their safety mandate.  Additionally, bills are currently circulating in Congress that may change commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards to allow more drivers into the system.

The Trump administration has also halted implementation of the overreaching Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and reconsidered certain elements of the previous administration’s Worker Protection Standards rule. Additionally, we continue to push for science-based decisions on pesticide registrations and reviews that are so vital to our industry.

Regarding international trade, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has entered its second year. NAFTA was originally negotiated 25 years ago, and many things have changed in the interim. The NPC has strong interest in enhancing NAFTA’s terms of trade, including strengthening rules and procedures to reduce phytosanitary barriers. Importantly, we do not want to compromise any of the existing tariff benefits for potatoes and potato products previously included in NAFTA. While NAFTA doesn’t directly impact our fresh access to Mexico, the level of discord between the countries over trade in general makes it more difficult to solve our specific issues. The NPC continues to work directly with the White House, USDA, USTR and Congress to identify improvements in current trade agreements and convey the importance that export markets offer to our industry and the American economy.

The current farm bill expires at the end of September. The NPC has been working for nearly two years on enhancing the provisions of the bill that benefit the potato industry. Those programs include export promotion, pest and disease exclusion, research and specialty crop block grants. In all, the 2018 Farm Bill can shape the next half-decade of U.S. agricultural policy, and we take our role in shaping that process very seriously.

The NPC’s mission is to represent the interests of U.S. potato producers and influence public policy in a positive manner. We are excited to partner with the Idaho Grower Shippers Association in pursuit of this goal and hope you all individually join us in advocating for policies that better serve our industry.