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All Eyes on Washington

Good news from Washington, D.C.

Now there is the ultimate oxymoron, but in this case it might just be true.

Rumors are beginning to circulate that some resolution to the trucking dispute between Mexico and the United States could be resolved very soon. And the impetus for the resolution could very well be the impending visit to Washington, D.C., by Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon.

Along with a formal state dinner at the White House, Calderon will address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, May 19.

Secretary of Transportaion Ray LaHood told Sen. Patty Murray of Washington that a new proposal to resolve the dispute was very close during a hearing on May 6 before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Read my interview with Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick to see what he has to say about the Obama administation’s international trade efforts.

It’s not a done deal, but the timing is right for action by both countries and it would give both Obama and Calderon something to claim joint accomplishment over.


Walt Minnick
Congressman, 1st Congressional District of Idaho

“It’s clear we’re going to have to do more with less,” was Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick’s assessment for funding of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Minnick, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture, represents the First Congressional District in Idaho and is serving his first term in the House of Representatives. The committee recently held five field hearings, with one in Nampa, Idaho. There are five more hearings scheduled through May 18.

“In this era of $1.5 trillion deficit there is no question in my mind that the bill is going to be cheaper, there’s going to be less money to spend for everything and that includes agriculture support. So its very important, that’s why we’re having these hearings a year early,” said Minnick.

The 2008 Farm Bill appropriations came to $284 billion.

Minnick said that both Democratic Rep. Colin Peterson, Minn., the chairman of the committee, and Rep. Frank Lucas, Okla., the ranking minority member advocate, are taking a critical look at all farm programs.

“One of the ideas that both of them threw out in the course of the hearings is that we should perhaps examine farm programs that could be available for all commodities that seek to guarantee minimum levels of income as opposed to programs that guarantee price or put restrictions on the market,” Minnick said. “A crop insurance based keyed to some minimum level of income is something that should be explored by all producers of all commodities as perhaps a more cost-effective way of insuring farmers can survive in hard times.”

Minnick said that Chairman Peterson hopes to have a bill done a year from now, before adjourning for the August break in 2011.

Minnick said he has been receiving many comments from producers upset at the lack of access to foreign markets.

“I’ve heard about limitations on export opportunities either because of we aren’t honoring our trade obligations, in the case of, shipping potatoes to Mexico for example or because foreign countries in the far east, Japan and Korea, are not allowing our beef in despite very vigorous inspection, other protectionists programs in countries all over the world but particularly irritating are the ones in wealthy countries, Europe as an example. Not creating the opportunity to have a level playing field and give our farmers a fair shake,” Minnick said.

Minnick sees a huge untapped foreign market for U.S. potatoes and signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seeking to expand the use of potatoes in the U.S. commodity programs.

Speaking of shipping potatoes to Mexico, Minnick believes firmly that the United States only hurt itself when Congress terminated the cross-border trucking pilot program with our neighbor to the south.

“We simply welched on our side of the agreement and Mexico was very unhappy and they went to the World Trade Organization went to the process there and got the right to slap retaliatory tariffs on a spectrum of U.S. commodities which is giving the market to Canadians, in the case of potatoes, in ways that are totally unfair and punishing people that had nothing to do with creating the problem in the first place,” Minnick said. “If we’re going to sign a treaty we ought to honor it. It embarrasses me that we’ve failed to do that in the case of our agreement with Mexico and trucking.”

Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, will be in Washington, D.C., next week. Calderon will address a joint session of Congress along with a state dinner at the White House.

Minnick has been in contact with the White House pushing this issue and he said he has a meeting with Secretary Vilsack this week and intends to raise the issue during the meeting.

“We also have pending three bi-lateral trade agreements that we also need to get ratified and I think the administration simply has to raise the trade issue to a higher priority. At a time we most need to create jobs, we are punishing farmers and costing good paying, high skilled jobs,” Minnick said.


Market Report

Spring potato production is up 3 percent from 2009, the highest level since 2004, with an estimated 25.6 million cwt., according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Harvested area is expected to be 89,600 acres, the highest since 90,000 acres in 2005.

Yields are projected to be slightly lower this year at 286 cwt. per acre compared to 289 cwt. per acre in 2009. Florida and North Carolina are expecting to average a 7 percent yield reduction with Texas and Arizona matching last year’s production numbers.

California appears to be the big producer this spring with harvested area up 18 percent to 31,000 acres and yields up 5 percent. USDA predicts that California will produce 11.8 million cwt., 46 percent of the U.S. spring potato production

Idaho shipments were up 20 percent from March 2009. Minnesota and North Dakota tablestock growers were the apparent beneficiaries of Florida’s late harvest this year, with shipments of 634,100 cwt. in March, up 43 percent from 2009.

Bruce Huffaker reports in the North American Potato Market News that Canadian growers will plant 18,100 acres fewer this year then in 2009, a 5 percent reduction from 2009.

In the United States, potato stocks are up 13 percent from 2009, with an increase of 9.9 million cwt. to 88 million cwt.

Seed shipments are off 8 percent from 2009, likely due to industry-wide reductions for 2010.


Product Spotlight:
Gowan Scorpion 35SL

Gowan Co. announced on May 5 the federal section 3 registration of Scorpion 35SL insecticide for broad-spectrum control for potatoes, grapes, leafy vegetables, fruiting vegetables, cucurbits and brassicas. It is not yet registered in California or New York.

Scorpion is powered by the third-generation neonicotinoid dinotefuran, that provides both control and suppression against the Colorado potato beetle, flea beetle species, potato leafhopper and psyllid species and providing suppression against the green peach aphid and the potato aphid.

Scorpion 35SL features high water solubility, allowing for rapid uptake and fast systemic movement throughout the plant. When applied as a soil, drench or drip application, it is absorbed by the roots and transported throughout the entire plant halting insect feeding completely. As a foliar spray, it shows translaminar movement within the leaf to protect all leaf surfaces, including the underside.

It has a re-entry interval of 12 hours, a rainfastness of two hours and a pre-harvest interval of 7 days.

For more information, call your local dealer or go to