March 14, 2019

Collins urges support for potato growers in trade talks

Courtesy / University of Maine
Courtesy / University of Maine
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a native of Caribou, joined a bipartisan group that urged the Trump administration to make the potato industry a priority in trade negotiations with China. Pictured is the Pinto Gold, a gourmet potato variety developed by the University of Maine's potato-breeding program and sold in specialty markets.

About the Maine Potato Board

The Maine Potato Board aims to provide a competitive environment for the state's potato growers, processors and dealers, creating stability and the infrastructure for future growth, while promoting the economic importance to the state and quality of the product.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, reiterated her support of the potato industry, including joining a push earlier to make it a priority in trade negotiations with China, when she met with members of the Maine Potato Board recently.

The Maine delegation, including Collins, who is a native of Caribou, in the heart of Maine's potato region, joined a bipartisan group last month that sent a letter to the Trump administration calling for the U.S. potato industry be a priority in the ongoing trade negotiations with China.

The letter, signed by 39 members of Congress from both parties, noted that the inclusion of potatoes in any U.S.-China trade deal would create significant economic growth and result in new jobs.

During the meeting with the potato board, members thanked Collins for her advocacy on trade agreements that affect Maine's agricultural sector, as well as her support for funding for breeding programs and research and her work on the 2019 Farm Bill.

The U.S. potato industry has a $3.7 billion farm gate value, and that success relies on finding an international market for one out of five potatoes produced, the letter noted. Since 2000, opening access to China for U.S. fresh potatoes has been a priority for U.S. potato growers and included on every bilateral agenda.

As a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Collins has said she is committed to ensuring that federal food policies recognize the value of potatoes, an "affordable and highly nutritious vegetable."

The recently enacted omnibus includes $2.75 million – an increase of $250,000 – for potato research, and $20 million for the USDA's Integrated Pest Management, which supports the work of the UMaine's Cooperative Extension Potato IPM program. The bill also includes language to give schools greater flexibility to provide potatoes through the School Breakfast Program.

The members of the potato board visited Collins while they were in Washington, D.C. for the National Potato Council Fly-In annual meeting. Collins delivered remarks at the annual meeting to farmers from a range of potato-growing states.

"As a native of Aroostook County, I was fortunate to have grown up amid the values of hard work, determination, innovation, and common sense that define the potato industry and those who work in it," Collins said in a news release. " I will continue to advocate for an industry that does so much for the economy of Maine and for the good nutrition of all Americans."


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