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Canadian Tribunal Hears Potato Dumping Testimony

Potato growers, industry experts and economists presented historical, scientific and economic evidence through lawyers on behalf of the Washington potato industry at the 3.5-day hearing before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) in Vancouver, British Columbia, in late July.

The B.C. Vegetable Marketing Commission (BCVMC) was seeking a continuance of anti-dumping duties levied on Washington spuds for the past 21 years.

“The dumping duties that have been put in place have only protected Canadian growers by supporting them with an artificial price floor, discouraging them from seeking new means to increase quality and marketability of their own product,” said Matt Harris, director of trade for the Washington State Potato Commission (WSPC), on his return from the hearing.

The WSPC case included testimony presented by Joseph Guenthner, an agricultural economist from the University of Idaho, that fresh potato profitability has historically followed a six-year cycle in which some years show a profit, some are a loss and some barely break even.

Economic evidence presented by Nick Young, an agricultural economist and president of Promar International, revealed that Washington potato exports to British Columbia typically increase only when prices are up. The data gathered by Young contradicted the British Columbia growers’ claims that the province is a dumping ground for low-priced U.S. potatoes that cannot go anywhere else. Young also found that even in the lowest price cycle for potatoes, price returns for British Columbia potato growers are considerable.

Washington growers offering evidence included Allen Floyd from Othello, Jack Wallace from Skagit Valley, Del Christensen from Mattawa and Dennis Conley, a Moses Lake consultant. Washington was represented by international trade and customs attorneys Joel Junker of Seattle and Darrel Pearson of Gottleib and Pearson in Toronto, Ontario.

“From whose testimony did you learn the most salient and detailed knowledge of nature and the workings of this industry?” Junker asked the tribunal in his closing argument. “Whose case had economists collect data on prices and returns for B.C. and Washington state that had never previously been assembled? And whose case gave you mere quotes from newspapers?”

By seeking a total of more than 30 years of protection, Junker said the British Columbia growers reminded him of a quote from a British politician, “They want kinder capitalism, a gentler market economy and an air-conditioned jungle.”

“The CITT panel, consisting of professionals in business, law and economics, was very intent in learning the truth about how the North American potato industry functions with regard to marketing, supply, demand and price and that there are differences in potato varieties contrary to what BCVMC believes,” Harris said.

The BCVMC conceded that dumping of red, yellow and exotic potatoes has not taken place and that those varieties should be removed from the dumping order. The WSPC contended that the entire dumping order be removed, on white and Russet varieties as well.

The CITT will render a decision Sept. 12.

Originally posted Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005

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