Good News from Washington for Growers, Despite Chaotic Political Climate

Good News from Washington for Growers, Despite Chaotic Political Climate

Photo by Ken Hammond.

The steady drumbeat of chaotic political news coming from Washington, DC. Cable news, newspapers, and social media can obscure important but less dramatic issues. The reports cover political stories with such ferocity they overwhelm other events that may hold more positive information.

Behind the inflammatory news of the day, successes have occurred this year that add up to growing points on the scoreboard as we near the fourth quarter of 2018.

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Regulations to Watch

On regulatory reform, National Potato Council  is front and center in pushing the federal government to eliminate or reform costly job-killing mandates.

Transportation

Already in 2018, we have seen success in pushing the Department of Transportation to change its electronic logging device (ELD) and hours-of-service (HOS) rules to provide more flexibility for our unique industry.

We continue to press the administration and Congress to revise those rules to provide maximum flexibility to our industry, while adhering to their safety mandate. Additionally, bills are currently circulating in Congress that may change commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards to allow more drivers into the system.

WOTUS

The administration has also halted implementation of the overreaching Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and reconsidered certain elements of the previous administration’s Worker Protection Standards rule. Additionally, we continue to push for science-based decisions on pesticide registrations and reviews that are so vital to our industry.

Trade

Regarding international trade, the Trump administration culminated two years of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a new agreement, dubbed USMCA (U.S., Mexico, and Canada). NAFTA was originally negotiated 25 years ago, and many things have changed in the interim.

NPC has strong interest in enhancing NAFTA’s terms of trade, including strengthening rules and procedures to reduce phytosanitary barriers.

Importantly, we do not want to compromise any of the existing tariff benefits for potatoes and potato products previously included in NAFTA. While NAFTA doesn’t directly impact our fresh access to Mexico, the level of discord between the countries over trade in general makes it more difficult to solve our specific issues.

The National Potato Council (NPC) worked directly with the White House, USDA, U.S. Trade Representative, and Congress to identify improvements in NAFTA, and we are pleased that an improved agreement was reached. We are hopeful that we will see a similar positive resolution on fresh market access to Mexico and a lifting of the retaliatory tariffs on frozen fries in the near future.

Farm Bill

The previous Farm Bill expired at the end of September. NPC has been working for nearly two years on enhancing the provisions of the bill that benefit the potato industry. Those programs include export promotion, pest and disease exclusion, and research and specialty crop block grants. In all, the 2018 Farm Bill can shape the next half decade of U.S. agricultural policy, and we take our role in shaping that process very seriously. [Editor’s note: As of this posting, the 2018 Farm Bill has not yet been passed.]

NPC’s mission is to represent the interests of U.S. potato producers and influence public policy in a positive manner. We still have much to do before we all gather in Austin, TX, for the 2019 Potato Expo and the kickoff of the new year. But it would be misleading to ignore the points that our industry is putting up on the board despite the volatility swirling around our nation’s capital.