Jan 7, 2013
Mexico access stalled

Negotiations to open the Mexico border beyond the current 26-kilometer zone for U.S. table stock potatoes hit a roadblock on Nov. 20, 2012.

The Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion (SAGARPA), Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published an announcement in the Diario Oficial (Federal Register) establishing the mitigation measures for reducing the risk for importing potato tuber into Mexico.”

The report listed 63 high-risk pests and 20 medium-risk pests.

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Information Network issued a report on the SAGARPA announcement. A pdf of the GAIN report “”Potato Risk Mitigation Measures Announced”” can be found at the USDA FAS GAIN site here.

The proposed project is open for public comment for 60 days. Comments must be submitted in Spanish and must be of a scientific and technical basis.

John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO, maintains a positive outlook on the final outcome of trade negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico.

“I look at the cup as half full,” Keeling said. “I look at the level of focus both within Mexico, good and bad, and in our administration, that level of focus is as high as it’s ever been. The same with Congress, that letter’s (letter from 17 senators to President Obama) a demonstration that Congress is really focused on seeing it resolved affirmatively.”

At the same time Keeling described SAGARPA’s move as an aggressive attempt to keep U.S. fresh stock potatoes from entering the rest of the country.

“It’s going to be a long fight and there’s going to be a lot of battle that go back and forth,” Keeling said. “It’s going to be like a chess game. There’s going to be a lot of moves made and the last one is not very positive at all.”

Keeling described the current situation as a policy fight between SAGARPA and the Secretaria de Economia.

“Part of this is an internal squabble between SAGARPA and Economia, between these two cabinet level agencies over approach to this issue,” Keeling said. “It would be like the USDA versus the Commerce Department.”

Keeling expressed confidence that the end result will play out positively for U.S. growers and shippers.

“We think in the end that this thing has risen to very high levels in both governments and we’re very comfortable with the discussion happening in that way,” Keeling said.

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