Sep 8, 2020
Mexican produce dumping concerns to be addressed

On Sept. 1, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Commerce, and USDA released a report detailing the Trump Administration’s plan to address concerns over Mexican exports of seasonal and perishable fruits and vegetables to the United States.

US Mexico flagsThe report’s release comes after the three departments held a pair of virtual public hearings in August, during which more than 60 witnesses testified, including nearly a dozen Members of Congress.

NPC provided written testimony during those hearings, which can be found here. The Administration’s announcement avoided the concerns that NPC raised regarding counterproductive changes to U.S. antidumping laws.

Instead, the first of the six actions the Administration will pursue is USTR requesting “the International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury to domestic blueberry growers.” USTR will also engage in discussions with the Mexican government to address concerns some U.S. domestic growers have with U.S. imports of Mexican strawberries, bell peppers, and other seasonal/perishable products. Potatoes were not one of the products listed in the report.

“As one of the leaders for the fruit and vegetable industry in D.C., NPC has been working with the Administration in addressing trade issues between the two countries, in particular Mexico’s obstruction of U.S. fresh potato imports,” said Jared Balcom, NPC VP of Trade Affairs. “The Administration’s announcement this week clearly indicates their intention to work within existing agreements and the law to resolve these issues. NPC will continue to pursue all avenues to resolve the fresh access issue given the existing structure of our trade agreements.”

CFAP 2.0 announcement coming

As reported by Agri Pulse, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated Sept. 3 that the Department was preparing a new round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funding. The deadline to sign up for the current program expires Sept. 11. (Sign-up here.)

Secretary Perdue said the department would announce the rules for the second round of payments next week but was clear that that losses by producers after April 15 (the current cut-off date for CFAP) will be covered by CFAP 2.0.

“The Secretary’s announcement that losses after April 15 will be eligible is very positive news. As more details about the new CFAP are made public, we hope to see a program that is easier to access and provides support to growers who suffered losses and need it,” said Kam Quarles, NPC CEO.

The National Potato Council (NPC) will continue to update the industry as soon as details are released.

NPC calls on Congress to restore PPP’s tax-free loan forgiveness

On Sept. 4, NPC joined 171 business organizations in calling on Congress to reaffirm its original intent of loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to be tax-free.

The groups write: “When the PPP was adopted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, Congress made clear that any loan forgiveness under the program would be excluded from the borrower’s taxable income. Specifically, a recipient of a PPP loan was eligible for forgiveness of indebtedness for amounts equal to certain payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments made during a prescribed period, with any resulting cancelled indebtedness excluded from the borrower’s taxable income.”

However, since the passage of the CARES Act, the IRS effectively overturned Congressional intent by denying PPP borrowers the ability to deduct the same expenses that qualified them for the loan forgiveness. As part of the next round of COVID-19 relief, the group called on Congress to reaffirm its intent and restore the tax benefits it intended to give distressed businesses as part of the CARES Act.

The full letter can be found here.

Concerns raised over DOL decisions that could impact H-2A viability

On Sept. 3, NPC and the members of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition wrote to U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Scalia requesting a review of the department’s recent decisions and policy interpretations that limit the viability of the H-2A program.

The group noted a number of recent decisions by the Department’s H-2A Certifying Officers, Solicitor’s Office, and the Office Administrative Law Judges that “will effectively render the H-2A seasonal and temporary agricultural worker program useless to many in agriculture. These decisions and interpretations plainly depart from the Department’s longstanding application of the H-2A statute and regulations,” the group wrote.

The letter cites a number of recent cases involving growers’ applications for H-2A workers, which have been denied based on new interpretations of what constitutes “seasonal or temporary,” and asks for the Secretary to “review these new decisions and policy interpretations and immediately correct them so that the H-2A program remains a viable source of critical labor for agriculture.”

The full letter can be found here.

Tell NPC what you want to see at Potato Expo ‘21

Congrats to Mark Duncanson from Basic American Foods, who was randomly selected to win a pair of Bose headphones for filling out the Potato Expo 2021 survey. Whether you’re a Potato Expo attendee, exhibitor, or speaker, there’s still time for you to share your views! Click here to tell us what you want to see in January.

Additionally, the deadline for Potato Talks submissions has been extended to October 1, 2020. While we are currently on track to host the Potato Expo 2021 as an in-person event, Potato Talks may ultimately be presented live and/or virtually. Click here to learn more and to submit your proposal.

— National Potato Council






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