USDA Called to Solve Mexican Spud Squabble; When They Expect to Resume Exports to PEI

Calls are growing for USDA to step in and resolve a trade squabble in Mexico over potatoes.

Growers had been fighting for 20 years to gain access, then an agreement was reached late last year to reopen the market, but ever since, it has been one set back after another.

The National Potato Council says it was just last Christmas when the industry was celebrating that agreement, but unfortunately, things fell apart quickly.

“Almost within a couple of weeks of that agreement being signed, Mexico started backpedaling on what they had agreed to. And, that’s where we are today is, unfortunately, no closer to reopening that market.”

Kam Quarles says that backpedaling has led to producers taking a huge financial hit.

“Again, it’s $150-million every single year that Mexico delays providing the access that U.S. growers rightfully should have. So, this is big money for the growers. It’s big money for all the communities those grower’s support. And, you know, I think it’s a priority for the Biden Administration to get something done here.”

Lawmakers from potato-producing states sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack this month, asking the USDA to speed up exports and make sure Mexico honors the trade deal with the U.S.. They also claim the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service accepted new demands from Mexico that will cause even further delay, and they want APHIS to explain its decision-making process.

Quarles says it is hard to make any decisions when the rules on Mexico’s side keep changing.

“By asking for something that’s not in the agreement, Mexico further delays. They don’t need to find something to keep us out of the market. What they need to do is keep moving the goalposts so that we never actually get back in the market.”

Quarles compares potato growers to Charlie Brown, when Lucy keeps pulling away his football. He says negotiators need to play tough with Mexico before they pull away the football yet again.

USDA expects potato exports from Prince Edward Island to resume soon. The National Potato Council is worried about the spread of potato wart in the U.S.. The disease does not exist here. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will publish a federal order outlining the requirements to protect the U.S. potato industry.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack commented on the matter saying, “USDA bases all of our ag trade decisions on sound science. We are confident that table stock potatoes can enter the U.S. with appropriate safeguards in place to ensure the U.S. potato industry remains protected.

The Potato Council says if the disease enters the country, it will cost the industry more than $225 million in annual exports.


There is optimism in the U.S./Canada potato disputeThere is optimism in the U.S./Canada potato dispute

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